Books that are set in different eras, different places, and about people whose lives are diverse from mine, always make me feel like I am getting much more than just one story. Without passports or tickets, I get to travel these worlds, peek inside the minds of amazing people. This book offered me much more than that.
Rustom is a man of a strange kind of integrity – his actions display a weird mismatch with his thoughts. By outward appearances, he seems reckless, thoughtless, even. But since we’re privy to his thoughts, we know that he is conscientious, trying to right the wrongs, ensuring that his family is safe after him. He is a man who is a sum of many parts. Thinking about tidbits of wisdom that his mother shared with him, thinking about his wife (in her various avatars), thinking about his sister in the hospital (suicide, he believes – because she always knew what she was doing). I was touched by how real he was. The rich Parsi family with a ‘history’ of suicide provided the perfect backdrop – with uncles who kill themselves in a suicide pact – a grandfather who will allow the family to inherit money only if Rustom kills himself.
How much money can you spend in a lifetime? In one scene, Rustom slaps his forehead wondering how the money ever got over.
He is desperate, and desperate people do desperate things. Even things like plotting to kill themselves. Suicide is a topic I personally wonder a lot about too.
But Rustom is not the depressed, suicidal kind – he was driven to it – thinking himself into a dark corner, whence the only escape is the narrow window that suicide allows him.
Enter Kahani Baba, the lovable, rotund psychic who shakes Rustom’s consciousness with his visions. In each vision is hidden a clue that could end Rustom’s misery. The clues are random and non-linear – as a reader, I found myself sucked into the vortex of Rustom’s mind, trying to solve and make sense of the Kahani Baba experience.
Will Rustom crack the clues? Will he be able to get out of the corner he’s boxed himself into? For Rustom, the entire story plays out between the bullet and the skin – which, by the way, was an alternate title for the book, I heard!
On the writing – even while dealing with a subject like suicide, Gaurav keeps it pacey, and full of mystery. As a reader, you’ll find yourself turning the pages swiftly. The shorts within the main story were fantastic – each one a gem. Well done, GP!
A few books leave you with a feeling of having walked a mile in another’s shoes. This one does that really well. Another review called it, ‘an almost perfect debut.’ I couldn’t agree more, almost perfect! Go grab your copy! Highly recommended.