Junkland Journeys, Ajith Pillai, Author Upfront, Rs 325
Here’s an author, a former senior editor of Outlook, who can beat the s*** out of the dudelit masters such as Chetan Bhagat and, other nameless ones. Here’s a novel that’s balanced and can shed light on the world of a drug addict, his redemption and the hollowness of his soul, well captured in scintillating prose, punctured by witticisms that would make you want to crack up. Well, do please roll on the floor! Ajith Pillai is a friend, but that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book. It is a definitive work of fiction owing to its humour and authenticity. The novel is at once subtle and hard hitting in its narrative full of scenes drawn from everyday Bombay.
“He was an anti-national in the guise of a holy man – an enemy agent with a mission to poison the herd of the gullible.”
That’s the description the author gives of Hari Menon, failed copywriter, whose father wanted him to be a doctor, or, failing which, an engineer. Rebellious Hari, on the contrary, wanted to be a journalist, but his father didn’t want him to have anything to do with journalism, except if he is being written about. The novel tells the story of Hari, who is on the detox path after slumming it out with his girlfriend Vandy in Antop Hill, the official quarters for government servants.
What follows is a detox program which results in a trip to Hari’s father’s hideout in a little-known village in Kerala. A dog strays into Hari’s life when he is having an LSD high and he believes firmly that the dog is god incarnate. The dog is named “Bow-mata” and an Ashram named Niravan is created for the dog by Hari’s father, a businessman, who treats it as a business enterprise. The dog becomes god and is worshipped by common people, film personalities, and even Hari’s ex-boss. His girlfriend Vandy abets him in this grand larceny of people’s adoration and wealth.
The author makes it abundantly clear that in this country, to be a goddog is simple, the dog only has to put his paw on his devotees’ heads to bless them. Of course, it has to be toilet trained so as not to shit or piss during a darshan.
All in all, the novel is a brilliant debut, worth a read because of its wit and perspicacity. The author transports the reader into the world of an addict with felicitous ease.
A must read novel, as unputdownable as the best available literary works in India today. Hope it wins some awards and recognition for its author.