Length: 236 pages
Genre: Fiction, Philosofiction, Political, Spiritual
Publisher: The Write Place
Rating: 5/5 stars
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from WritersMelon in exchange for my honest review
As you have seen previously, I have reviewed Letters to my Ex and The Brahmin for WritersMelon. I wasn’t sure if I would get an opportunity to review Mango People in Banana Republic but I applied anyway. It was a pleasant surprise when I did. I am not a very political person and I am very skeptical about the whole ‘meditation leads us to see things beyond the Universe’ thing so the fact that I enjoyed the book so much says a lot about the author’s talents.
Vishak Shakti is a Tech. product manager based in Bangalore. He is a writer by compulsion. He writes to vent, to purge and to indulge. He has written for MSN India, The Hindu and Clean Bowled. He loves cricket and was a movie buff before the world of television swept him off his feet.
He believes that a good book contains 3 traits- Entertainment, Artistry and Relevance. He likes literary thrillers, philosofiction and non-fiction. He has a particular liking for authors with irreverent voices. Mango People in Banana Republic is his first novel.
“Ravi Bhalerao is a top of the rung business strategy consultant struggling with two disquiets in life – a festering career disillusionment and a festering wound in his posterior. Stung by an unfair performance appraisal, he pulls off an outrageous stunt at his workplace, drops off the urban map and reaches his ancestral land, a village in drought-prone Vidarbha. There he encounters India in its elemental form. Convinced that his destiny is somehow entwined with that of his country, he sets off on a truth-seeking mission. On that mission, he finds love, revolution and most importantly, a redemption for the disquiet in his rear.
Anand is a former physicist on a spiritual quest through esoteric India. He realizes that the path to realization is beset on all sides by gurus, their cults and their boundless quirks. As he hops from one ashram to the other, he grows convinced that liberation does not come with a user manual in a neat little box.
Wrapped in light-hearted, almost tongue-in-cheek prose, ‘Mango People In Banana Republic’ is a tale of an Indian’s search for personal identity, against the backdrop of a country divided along fault lines of countless social identities. Teeming with a cast of characters and ideas that encapsulate modern India, the tale ascends from the gross to the sublime, much like the Kundalini powers some aspire to acquire. With a steady pace, and gentle mocking humour, this book is an absorbing read and a laugh“.
First off, let me say that I finished the entire book in one sitting, cover to cover. It is very rare for a book to hold that much sway over me. I absolutely loved how the story pulled me along for a roller coaster ride of emotions. It begins with Ravi, a strategy consultant with a painful fistula going to a physician. I did not think that it was possible for problems in the butt to be a source of so much hilarity. The best part was that we see this theme as well as this style of writing for the entirety of the book.
The book follows different characters on their journey to enlightenment, each in their own way. After a performance appraisal gone horribly wrong, Ravi is disillusioned about the corporate world that he lives (or survives) in. He decides to give up the entrapment of materialistic things and returns to the village that he grew up in. Here we are treated to explicit details of the hardships in a drought affected land that mainly depends on farming for their livelihood. It highlights how the Government cheats people out of their right to survive and does not even give them their basic necessities. We read about farmer suicides and land encroachment in the News but reading about it in a story through their points of view makes it even more real.
In the meanwhile, we see a former physicist undergoing spiritual awakening in various ashrams across the country. At the same time, Ravi falls in with the Naxal crowd and has a few adventures himself. I am not a very political person so I took all the Government-vs-Naxal/Maoist/Guerrilla activities at face value without analysing it beyond what was given in the book. The fact that they stressed on ‘we do not harm civilians’ was nice, if only it were actually followed. I was surprised that Ravi was let go so easily after hearing the horror stories of people who wish to quit any powerful underground organization.
Ravi and Anand meeting each other seemed a bit too coincidental. As I said before, I don’t necessarily believe that our mind heals us of anything. So Anand healing Ravi’s longstanding fistula with just a simple meditation session was hard to believe. Even if such healing was possible, it would seem that it would take a bit more time and energy, not to mention practice and patience to be able to transform the physical body. The end with the reappearance of Madhu was too good to be true. I was glad that the author left a bit of ambiguity on that front.
On the whole, I really did enjoy the book even though I was not so sure when the political part came on. It did not bore me nor did it seem preachy. It was an incredible effort by a first time novelist and I can’t wait to read more from Vishak.
TL;DR: A fast paced and engaging book that is sure to make you want to read it from cover to cover at one go.
Have you read any book cover to cover in a single sitting?
Which book was it?
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