Mango People In Banana Republic — Vishak Shakti
Publisher: The Write Place
Price: Rs. 249 INR(paperback), Rs. 195 INT(Kindle Edition)
Buy here: https://amzn.to/30Djlv1
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.
About the author
Vishak Shakti is a writer by compulsion. He writes to vent, to purge, to indulge, and sometimes just for the heck of it. He has written for publications such as MSN India, The Hindu, and Clean Bowled. He thinks that a good book has three essential ingredients — entertainment, artistry and relevance, in that order.
My take on this book
The story is the roller-coaster ride of the protagonist Ravi from being a strategic consultant in Bengaluru to moving back to his native in Vidarbha to then being a Maoist camrede in Dandakarnya and his ultimate destination in the climax, all along trying to find his identify and purpose. Alongside runs the story of Anand, a self retired physicist on a similar journey but with more clarity on what he is seeking. There is a short story of Devang, Ravi’s boss at the consulting firm who is insecure about Ravi’s presence at the firm.
How the lives of these three culminate, and what circumstances, decisions lead to this forms the rest of the story. The narration has the right dose of sarcasm and wry humor while stating facts in the face. Ravi’s frustration at work, so as the drought in Vidarbha, to the principles and thought process of the Maos to Anand’s spiritual journey, all have just the right amount of detailing without going overboard and the writer intertwines all these concepts into the story beautifully. Each of the seven parts in the book start with a description of the seven chakras of human body in that order. The significance of describing these chakras will be understood towards the end, so as another thread that is introduced in first half of the book which is connected to story towards the pre-climax. The story delves into the career crisis and visa troubles of young India, so as farmers suicides in the same tone.
The writing style is splendid and not once does it feel like debut novel of the author. While some actions of Ravi shock the reader and feel sudden and hasty, but as KR notes, Ravi is very distinct from others in being truthful to whatever he does and hence the greater meaning of his decisions can be understood only towards the end. This is definitely not a glossy book unlike others that start in India’s own Silicon valley. Just when the reader concludes this as one more routine coming-of-age story, the story takes another unexpected turn. The book leaves the reader introspecting on multitude of aspects while not getting preachy. An unputdownable one and a must must read! Highly recommended!!