Book Review: The Radiance of Ashes
While reading this book, I came across a line that I feel best suits the feeling about this book – ‘All Nations are full of sad stories, especially our nation India’. Even with the common surname Mistry you would never think that the author is anyway related to the much celebrated Rohinton Mistry. Though they share similar literary capabilities, they do not share the same fame, all thanks to our Indian media that celebrates the celebrated!
Jingo aka Jaungoo aka Jehangir is something of a drifter who lives on money from part-time employment as a market researcher, sort of a freeloader who doesn’t hesitate to accept his parents and friends’ generosity while fantasizing of being a writer. After a moment of rash bravery—standing up to a bully of a policeman—he finds himself forced to lie low for a while. Hiding out in the underbelly of the city slums and escaping into memories of the past, Jingo recalls his cosseted childhood as the pampered kid of an ever fearing mother and an irresponsible brat to his father; the loss of his older brother (who was poorly replaced by Jingo and cause of much resentment to his parents); his days at school and college; his long-standing and caustic relationship with Cristina, a middle-class East Indian girl, and the woman he once thought the love of his life. But as past and present collide, Jingo is forced to consider his life so far, and realizes he must decide what he wants before it is too late.
The narrative is just brilliant. One chapter through and you’ll notice the writing that won the author his 2014 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature; The way he flips back and forth from the past to present, effortlessly. He gives each of his main character a deep look on their life, slowly building their demeanor in the book. The 70’s – 80’s Mumbai has been described beautifully. Jingo’s character is intriguing. He is portrayed as a directionless, reckless character but he also has a certain level of admirable principles, which is just the right blend for a unique main character that is neither too bad nor any good. Another interesting point is how detailed the author has portrayed the various people’s lives – rich, middle class and the poor. It feels as if he has lived with them.
But for me the prose is too dense at some points and makes you want to skip pages. Narratives on Jingo’s philosophies seem a little too extravagant for a prose that is already so verbose.
This books brings to the limelight a highly talented yet lowly celebrated Indian author. With a disclaimer that says ‘This is a fiction. Any resemblance to recent historical events is entirely deliberate.’ this book is a resonance of what has been happening in India.
Pick this book up for its literary narrative, prodigal characters and take a walk through Mumbai’s memory lane.
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