I have been on twitter for most of the last 6 years and have been following Arnab Ray (@greatbong ) for a while now! His posts are always informative and satirical at the same time. He puts himself in the readers shoes and then writes his thoughts down. And when I got to know about “Yatrik – The Traveller“, I just tweeted him expressing my desire to read and review it and he had it sent over to me in a flash. And once I started reading the book, I could hardly put it down till I was done with it!
What happens when you die? Is there life after that? Do you immediately get re-incarnated as a rat or a mouse or is there a waiting period? Will you be self-aware after death? What happens to your memories and experiences when you die? Do your perceptions and prejudices come with you when you die? “Yatrik” is a fictional tale that very earnestly tries to weave in the answers for a few of these questions with a crisp tale that moves from befuddling in the start to slowly disentangling into an engaging tale!
Very frankly speaking, I have not read his earlier book. Went into this with a clean slate and saw that he has a flair for writing with an ability to take you along the entire journey! Anushtup, the protagonist of this book is a very common man, it could have easily been me or you in his place!
An alcoholic prone to black-outs under heavy intoxication, he wakes up and finds himself in a strange place with no one but a very common looking man for company. His immediate reaction is just like what we would do, look for his wallet and mobile. He then starts trying to frighten the other man into admitting that he had stolen them and to get them back. Upon getting no expected reaction, a still confused Anushtup gets to hear from his companion that he – Anushtup is dead. His initial reaction is one of disbelief and then gives way to dissatisfaction! Anushtup is not happy with his death!
From there we start going on a journey through Anushtup’s life. A pretty insignificant one at that. But by the end of the book, he gets to a state of feeling good or accomplished about it! His family is replete with the usual suspects – parents with “intriguing” secrets, a girlfriend pregnant with his child and so on.
The beauty of this book lies in the non judgmental and sometimes very disjoint third person perspective with which we traverse Anushtup’s life! There are points where things turn out very different from what he thought/wanted and we don’t get shocked.
One of the most important characters in the book is Kolkata! I have never been there and after reading the book, I feel like I spent time there with Anushtup. Arnab Ray has brilliantly interwoven the city and it’s persistent nature into the book with a lot of ease! The result is great! The fact that the “common” looking man is a fellow Yatrik and that they are on a journey between life and death piques your imagination.
I am yet to see another book in this genre! I think Arnab Ray should write a few more in the same genre. There is a lot of scope for mind-boggling possibilities here and I think he has the right skills to to take us through this unusual genre of fiction! Very engaging and in many ways an eye opener about perspectives and preconceptions that define us, often very wrongly! Wonderfully immersive experience!