Monday, June 20, 2011
Somewhere @ Nowhere has one of the most interesting themes I've read recently.
Imagine the point in your life when you felt truly aimless, as if you were working for someone else. Leading someone else's life. Imagine an upheaval that left you unsure of what to do with yourself. Imagine taking some money and some friend and going into the general compartment of a train headed to nowhere - you discard your cellphone on the way and dont have internet access, you learn to eat in unhygienic places and live without things that you considered necessities, you head off somewhere to a place you dont know, no plans, no ambition - nothing except for you and the road and your next stop and your next meal. No company except for the strangers you can talk to on the road. No more following the rules set by society. Doesnt this sound exciting? Well, thats exactly the plot of Somewhere @ Nowhere by Nikesh Rathi. In his book, Rathi sends off his narrator into uncharted waters in India and leaves him to flounder around, discovering India, and in the process, discovering himself.
But the narrator seems rather irrelevant in this story. In fact, I only learned his name on page 108 of a book that is roughly 150 pages. His friend is even more irrelevant, he does not even stay for the entirety of the book and I find him extraneous at best. But the crux of this story is about the people the narrator actually meets - the poor, downtrodden people that he has never had any contact with, and their lives and faith that shake his own life. The characters he meets are highly important as a reflection of Indian society and culture - and the one who touched by heart most was the nameless Sadhu at the start, and Malti, the young poor girl with an abused life who comes in at the end, but each one of them had their own sad stories and their own struggles with their lives, and each were placeholders for the much bigger drama that is India. At a few places, like when the narrator gets kidnapped (I will leave you to read the book to find out by whom) I felt that the characters were underdeveloped and under-explained, but all in all I enjoyed the character's stories as they were all different and all very relevant.
The author avoids some of the cliches of writing (which I appreciated very much) - at one point I was extremely certain that there was going to be an ill-timed and ill-developed love story which I'm very glad he did not do, and at another point I believed that the author was heading towards a very radical change in the character that would not have been in keeping with the general development of the story. I liked the writing on the whole, mostly terse and I liked how the characters narrated their stories in their own voices. On the other hand certain parts of the writing were annoying - like the sometimes clunky writing and the fact that there was too much telling instead of showing, which often bogs down an otherwise good story. It is all very good to tell stories, but stories too need to be made more interesting by dialog and action sequences, which I feel the author could have done better.
Final thoughts: Refreshing plot. The author, to quote Robert Frost, takes a "road not taken" and that makes all the difference.
Other thoughts: Except an interview with Nikesh Rathi soon on my blog! Also, I'm currently reading Haunted by Douglas Misquita and have a whole range of books lined up, so keep an eye out and expect loads of replies very soon!
(Financial disclosure: Book source was the author.)