Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rangbazi in North Campus

A Patna boy comes to Delhi and finds a voice. Nothing new except the funny, sly narrative that brings him alive

Day Scholar;
Siddharth Chowdhury;
Pan Macmillan;
Rs 250; Pp 164
The unpretentious, honest and lucid writing of Patna Roughcut, Siddharth Chowdhury’s debut novel, left the reader wanting more. Here was a new voice rooted in a place one doesn’t come across often in English fiction. The slim coming-of-age tale featured Ritwik Ray who, having come back to his hometown Patna as a newspaper man, looks back on his adolescent and teen years— and the oddball cast of characters that populated it—with feeling and wry humour.

Day Scholar, Chowdhury’s equally slim and readable second novel, feels like a continuation of his earlier work. Like Ray, the protagonist and narrator Hriday Thakur is a Bengali boy who grew up in Patna. While Ray mostly talked about his life up until he turned 17 and left for Delhi, Hriday in Day Scholar picks up the thread as a 17-year-old, first-year student in Delhi University (DU).

The son of an English professor, Hriday likes cricket, doesn’t care about studies and is quite friendly with fixers and crooks who carry kattas (country pistols) and ustaras (barber’s razor) and are known as rangbaz. Knowing such characters had its advantages in Bihar in the early 1990s. Sudama Pathak is one such rangbaz. “…(H)e was a shy unassuming boy whom his friends called ‘tikki’ on account of the long rat-tail that he sported, but in the intervening two years he had blossomed into a tough little bastard,” Hriday informs us.

Full review here Mint

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