Friday, January 17, 2014

When Strangers Meet - Book Review

When Strangers Meet
By K. Hari Kumar
Review By Ila Garg

When Strangers Meet is a novel by the debutant writer K. Hari Kumar is published by Srishti Publishers. The cover of the book is designed by the author himself, using illustrations by Sakshi Garg. The front cover shows three characters from the book. The back side has a doodle of the author. The title is captivating too, tempting me further to own this book. The title and cover also indicate that it is a strange story involving three strangers who bump into each other at a railway station.

The author, K. Hari Kumar is working as an Assistant Director in the Indian film industry. He has written, acted and directed four independent projects that have been screened at various film festivals. This is his literary debut.

The blurb reads as, ‘What happens when Jai is stranded at the metro station with an irritating stranger called Iyer & a mysterious Pathan? How will the tale from Iyers past affect Jai’s future? And why does the mysterious Pathan keep staring at Jai? What happens inside that small room of the metro station? Nobody believes Jai when he claims that He was there! People think he is crazy, but is he?
The story revolves around Pathan, Jai & Iyer, and their tryst with each other’s destiny.

A light-hearted drama with a heavy tint of suspense that captures father-son relationships from the viewpoints of three different strata of society. Action, Comedy, Romance, Drama, Suspense... A typical Bollywood fiction...

A touching tale about choosing between the paths of our dreams and their expectations.’

Initial impressions of the book on me were that it’s going to be interesting. The three people are strangers which is the crux of the tale. The book is divided into three parts - The Runaway, Iyer's Story and Revelations. 

In the first chapter, we read about Jai, who is a hot tempered young lad. His father is a renowned Mathematics professor and therefore expects Jai to be like him. He compels him to join an engineering college despite his low percentage and nill interest in the field. He disregards Jai’s passion for animation. That’s where the conflict arises.

Jai’s father is so mad after getting his son admitted in the engineering college that he is even ready to pay a hefty fee. Next as expected, Jai runs away from his home to go after his dreams. When he finds out the metro has been halted because of an accident and trains are only going as far as Ghittorni station, he takes a ticket and ends up there.

Meanwhile, the readers are also given a little insight into the life of Hussain, a Pathan who has big dreams and knows he’s just won a lottery that could make all those dreams come true. He too coincidentally ends up at Ghittorni. I loved how author K. Hari Kumar managed to capture, in a very subtle and perhaps unknowing manner, the true current Indian situation where the rich are becoming richer and the poor, poorer. It's easy to ignore the part, but the fact, for me, was hidden right there. And I loved the reality of it. In general, the situational reality of the story was quite solid. At the resting room in Ghittorni, Jai tries to be by himself, but a talkative, pot-bellied Iyer comes and sits with him and begins a conversation. This is the beginning of the Iyer’s story, which is really what the author wishes to share with the world.

The book is undoubtedly appealing. There can be various reasons, some of which I have already listed: the cover, the title, a different and interesting plot, etc. The book has sheer realism which is the USP according to me. The father-son relationship is described vividly. The narrative skills of the author are indeed commendable.

The 206 page book comprises of 56 chapters, followed by an Epilogue. The reason why I loved the book is its plot. The tale does not belong to the romantic genre, which sets it apart from the masses. The story on the whole is quite meaningful. The writer has tactfully written the novel taking the readers simultaneously to different locations at different time. The main plot and sub plots are intertwined skilfully.

One of the major flaws that I have noticed in most of the books by Srishti Publishers is editing and this book is no different in that regard. The language has problems too (one of the reasons why I can’t give it a 5/5 rating).

There are some intriguing events occurring in the course of the novel too. For instance, the man Iyer narrates his whole life’s story to a stranger Jai and later Jai discovers something that confuses him thoroughly. The climax in that sense, gives the novel a metaphysical touch!

The too many dilemmas of Jai’s life is just one of the reasons you want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens in When Strangers Meet. It is not every day that you encounter a stranger like Iyer whose story changes your life forever! 

To find out whether Jai chooses to follow his dreams in spite of the hurdles or resolves to give up and go with his father’s decision, comes out as a savior or surrenders to his fate, he gets his dreams or not, he is able to discover the truth of Iyer or not, he learns from Iyer’s story or chooses to ignore it; you will have to read the novel, When Strangers Meet.

Few pointers: The author should have given his script for a proofreading. The language needs a lot of improvement. I can’t imagine a father calling his son Bastard or Son of a Bitch, which was an eye sore. Also, I felt somewhere Arshad’s character could have been given a little more space, who is the son of the Pathan. I really loved his innocent portrayal. I felt some connecting points were also missing in the book.  Yeah it can be picturized as a movie someday, but I would suggest the author to work on some aspects to give it a better outlook. Best wishes to the debut author, K. Hari Kumar, who dared to tread a different path leaving romantic genre aside. Best wishes!

Ratings: 3.7/5

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