Being an Indian blogger, I’ve kind of grown up with Greatbong’s blog posts. His humour, satire, crisp and crackling takes on politics, Bollywood, Indian habits and much more have enthralled our generation. No, that doesn’t imply Greatbong is aeons old. If you’re still wondering why I’m babbling here about him, meet Arnab Ray – a.k.a. Greatbong and the author of Yatrik.
I haven’t read his previous book, The Mine, which was a psychological horror. In fact, I had no idea about his forte in fiction until I picked up Yatrik. The book begins promisingly, with the revelation that Anushtup Chatterjee, 32, male has died and woken up by a common-faced old man on the other side of death. Their conversation follows, with Anushtup obviously not believing that he’s dead. Arnab has crafted these initial chapters with seamless ease. Anushtup’s satire is much like a drug-tripping man in his early thirties, dissatisfied with his life and even his death!
What I liked most about Yatrik is its strong underlining Calcutta flavour. You start imbibing it even before you realize it. Anushtup’s characteristics, are very Bengali at heart with ‘martyr complex’ written all over him as Arnab describes. He’s the loser he never wanted to be and yet, at the end, there is a sense of accomplishment in his mediocre lifespan. There are quite a few interesting ingredients in Anushtup’s life – mismatched parents, a mum gone astray, a career doomed before it even began, and a rich pregnant girlfriend. Enough masala, eh? Arnab cooks them pretty well, though into a delectable kedgeree, garnished with the conversations post death. The characters complement the plot – Poonam with all her goodness and love, Anushtup’s parents with their never-ending secrets, the paradox of Atulya da and finally the old man who travels with him being another Yatrik.
Yatrik is a philosophical fiction, introspective at its best. Not in a Paolo Coelho sort of way though. The reader is cruised through Anushtup’s life from a third person perspective, not being judgmental before the events transpired scene by scene like a film. There are a few cliches and knick-knacks in the story, but they can be happily ignored, soaking the reader into a delightful sauce, Calcutta flavoured.