Blurb (from the jacket):
'Go to any party, in any country, on any moonlit terrace of the world, the best dressed man is always the one from Patna. '
In these nine interlinked stories we meet the not so quintessential Patna man Hriday Thakur, Literature junkie, aspiring writer, inveterate lover of women and rain, Jishnu da, his acquaintance from Delhi University, who is now an 'importer of blondes', Samuel Crown, the fastidious proofreader who mentors Hriday and instils in him an irrevocable love for the art of 'book-making', the parade of women in Hriday's life: austere, doe eyed Charulata, love of his youth, the one who got away, Chitrangada, his wife, who works hard to be accepted in his world of books, art, politics and activism, the beautiful Anjali Singh Nalwa, ex-flame who is now a fiery, controversial novelist, Imogen Burns, the intrepid chronicler of graveyards, Sadaf Khan Abdali, who loves the smell of Listerine early in the morning and 'Sophia Loren', dream girl of many schoolboys, now a mother of two.
Unsentimental to a fault, Siddharth Chowdhury's stories deal with relationships that are intimate and sensuous and sometimes hard to define, taken together, they are an affectionate nod to an idealist generation, insulated in a world of publishing, academia, gin-soaked brunches and Marxist philosophy.
My take on the book:
This book came across as a travel guide or something related to the Patna city. Well, you will understand the reason behind my misconception if you check out the Aleph Books catalog. But I had to read the blurb, due to the depiction of a unkempt person with a typewriter to his side. It had to do something about literary circle for sure.
When I received the book, the author's name quite rang a bell, but unclear, which forced me to do second thing - after 'read the blurb' thing - I rarely do with the books I read. I dug into author's profile and learned that he is already an unpublished author of another book, Day Scholar. Well, it is quite an achievement to get shortlisted for Man Asian Literary Prize with your debut work.
Above all that, the brand did matter. Aleph Books. I don't remember getting disappointed by fictions from these publishers, ever.
When I started reading this book, it was quite a struggle to keep up with the pace of it, a bit complicated for people freshly into reading. The chapter - or story, as one might learn later - was a story narrated in quotes. Yeah, a conversational narrative, which was quite a feat pulled by the author because I was never once bored. Once into the book, body and soul, you will not put it down.
I loved the way author blended the local slang with the language. Hindi words pop up without hesitation or warning every now and then and you won't feel a thing about it. So subtle was his language.
I take pleasure to warn the readers that there is nothing much about Patna or its geography in this book. In fact, most of the story is set in Delhi and around it. Only the conversation and the view's of the characters revolve around the literary legends, politics and various other aspects of Patna.
It is part lie, if I stay it is a collection of stories. Perhaps, it is interlinking bunch of stories, but common characters and a protagonist being repeated more than once. Even if the stories have common characters, it doesn't follow a particular timeline. The narrative defies all laws of times and expecting a satisfactory end is a sin. It is not a story to expect a good ending. The novel flourishes by the feel of it.
Overall, it was a great experience this novel. It had introduced me to a totally new world of writing. Not that the narrative was new or the stories were innovative. But for an ordinary, aspiring writer, like me, I feel endangered, because there is so much one can do with writing - like for instance, shaping the mindsets of the society, leading towards a better perspective - than just storytelling.
Read something inspiring, that with the 'feel good' factor after a very long time...
Title: The Patna Manual of Style
Author: Siddharth Chowdhury
ISBN (edition I've read): 9789383064779
Read between: 04-03-2015 to 13-03-2015
Reviewed for: Richa Pathania
Publishers: Aleph Books Company
MRP: ₹ 295