Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Friend Sancho-hardly a review

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I had read the book about 3 weeks ago and then procrastinated writing my thoughts about it. But then isn’t that befitting? Considering how the book speaks so highly of the protagonists’ procrastination amongst other things of course.

My Friend Sancho (MFS) is the debut novel of India’s star blogger Amit Varma (more about Amit here). The book is short and addictive and one should seriously finish this is one go. Three pages down and I was laughing out loud, while reading it on a sofa, waiting for my turn at Barbeque Nation. Yes, I know its annoying, never thought I’d have to wait for a table in Hyderabad. Happens.

It’s very very funny. The book I mean.

Abir Ganguly, the book’s lead character, is one heck of a journalist. He is a self proclaimed armchair cynic; jaded, horny and works in the crime beat to come up with gems such as Man swats himself to death. I loved Abir’s character. The exaggerations which are random at times, the pertinent observations and everything else, really made me feel as if I had known Abir all my life. Okay, so maybe I down played the exaggeration part a bit. The lizard is part of the cast, though not big enough to disrupt the storyline. You get the idea.

So Abir’s all fine and chillin’, just another nut in a huge machine. However, things get complicated when he is asked to come up with a story humanizing one Md Iqbal, who was killed in a police encounter.

And thus enters Muneeza, Iqbal’s daughter. And with it the wheels of an innocent love story are set into motion. Varma does a wonderful job of limiting the cliches here. Because Abir does get a boner while Muneeza is pouring her heart out. Just saying.

Now there’s something I must confess. Is it just me (no, turns out I have company)? Or did Muneeza remind you folks of Zaheera from the Best Bakery fiasco too? Because as hard as I tried, I couldn’t fight off that picture.

This was one of my main complaint from the book. The character of Muneeza. Not enough information was given about the sort of girl she was, or maybe the book just ended too quickly. I would have loved the story to extend a little longer. Because after every page I got more and more confused about the sort of person Muneeza was. The end seemed abrupt. I was seriously expecting there to be more to the story.

Okay, I think I sounded a tad too harsh in that last paragraph. Trust me, I simply adore the book. Because of its simplicity and easy nature. Because of Inspector Tombre and what might have been one of the best speeches delivered by a civil servant in the history of this nation. I think one should buy the book for that speech itself. Because Amit so wonderfully expresses human emotions and because I have not laughed so much in a span of 200 pages for a long long time. Strangely, I can compare it to the feeling I got when I first started reading xkcd. There are things we feel and seldom put on paper. MFS does exactly that. For example, look at this

I worked for a couple of hours. That is to say, I tried to work. My mind kept wandering, and the internet gave it places to wander to. Every three minutes I told myself, Just two minutes more, let me just check out this page, then I will work. But I’d check out that page, and click on a link there, or think of something because of what I was reading and go somewhere else, and so on and on until it was almost lunchtime and I was better informed about the world but less so about my own piece.

And that’s just one instance.

Another thing I really enjoyed is that every character has their distinct voice and Amit doesn’t compromise with that.

Dissecting each and every part of the book is something I don’t really intend to do. So I shall say this, do definitely give it a read. Its really easy going yet doesn’t mock your intelligence. Its fun and light. And there is a bit of self publicity, but it’s all in good taste.

I guess at the end of it, one could look at the book as Abir’s myopia.

The book was longlisted for the for the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. Read the first chapter here

Crossposted at Mutiny

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