Book Review: Toke

Part of Debut Indian Writers Challenge 2012 and South Asian Challenge 2012

Title: Toke
Author: Jugal Mody
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers India
ISBN: 978-93-5029-340-9
Pages: 214
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4 of 5
Reviewed for:



This review is honoured to be on the author’s website.

Three facts I bet you did not know about marijuana and getting stonned:

1. We know Lord Shiv enjoys marijuana and loves being stoned but Lord Vishnu enjoys it too!!

2. Infact the probability to meet Vishnu face to face is the highest when you are at your high’s highest, infact he has a whole secret cult called BoV – Boys of Vishnu comprising of only stoners!

3. Marijuana smoke can help you identify maggots with naked eyes, no microscope needed, and it is also your shield against turning into zombies – the best medicine?

All this and more as you wade through the terrific debut work of Jugal Mody in a book that is part satire, part religious reconstruction and part fantasy. Jugal takes us on a unconventional, out-of-this-world ride which would very well be a dramatic, action induced dream, actually at the end of the book even that is a possibility. The book very subtlety breaks some fads we, the majority in the country – Hindus, have grown up with: most importantly the one about Hinduism being a religion. It, in the story undercurrent, states that it is anything but a religion; it is a way of life, the way of the universe. Toke gets together a most unusual group of people to sort out the biggest problem raking the human race – extinction; and Lord Vishu – the creator himself is not very hopeful that Nikhil will save his beloved creation, not that it matters much to him.

Toke takes us on a ride which starts with Nikhil – not much of a son, ‘loser’ type employee and extremely average human being having one of his worst days at work with his project behind schedule, his computer acting up, his project manager glaring down on him every few hours and his cubicle neighbor, ‘perfect employee’ Alok popping over the wall with very helpful remarks, specifically timed with the project manager’s rounds. Nikhil eventually, by half day, ends up at his best friends – Aman & Danny’s – flat, who by the way live to get stoned with the best weed procurable out there and the easiest way to enrage them is calling ganja – a Drug. After the most appreciative day at work all Nikhil wants is to get stoned out and stoned out he gets after his friends use their best stuff for their beginner friend. And that is when the action begins – precisely the next morning when his friends are still stoned – Nikhil encounters a talking crow who claims to be a hollywood celebrity and then Lord Vishnu himself – plopped on his throne of clouds, smoking a joint – relaxed and smiling as usual. He had come looking for Aman and Danny but since they were stoned out, he assigns Nikhil with the mission. Vishnu tells him that demons are taking over the world and the human race is in real danger of turning undead; the demons will be attacking in a most technological manner and humans will become extinct in the form they now are and only exist as controlled zombies i.e. if Nikhil does not save the world because Vishnu is in no mood to take his tenth incarnation of Kalki. The only divine support that Vishnu can provide is a red button that is to be used when in panic and it will transport them to the happy place of the one who pressed it.

A troubled Nikhil and his cool-in-everything stoner friends eventually figure out that everything around them is turning green and that maggots are being fed to people through food, that takes control of their brains and turns them into zombies. The whole world is turning into a zombie-land and the group is being hunted down every where they flee with the help of the panic button. Amidst all this Nikhil’s office crush is now tagging along with him and is partly a zombie now, two japanese girls who believe that Aman and Danny are martial arts masters are also tagging along and cutting down people with their own martial arts skills, Alok – Nikhil’s favorite colleague is tagging along too and Vishnu keeps making video conferencing appearances informing Nikhil that he always knew that he was a loser, giving him time mandates to save the world and informing him of his vacation plans. Thus effectually god is on his side but yet away on vacation!

Jugal makes one of the most confident literary debuts in recent times with Toke. The narration is crisp and well edited, the story unconventional and well detailed; and the concept is mind blowing and mind boggling, together. The book is entertaining, intelligent and engaging. I have not read many books that engages you in the deeper concepts of philosophy and religion as effortlessly as this one does, that too with the entertainment factor bang on. A definitely recommended read for the year.

Happy Reading.

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