On TBF today, we have The Man Who Wouldn’t Be God by Shashi Warrier from Speaking Tiger Books.
Bala Kamath, once an ace investigative journalist is now a burnt out alcoholic who is barely able to keep his life together, holding on to the brittle strings of his job, marriage and the estranged relationship with his daughter. Faced with expulsion from his position in the company, he is sent off to meet a Godman called Swami Sarvananda, who has been caught in a scandal and accused of rape by a female devotee. A cynic and a skeptic, Bala approaches the situation with an opinionated mind but in the gradual meetings with the Swami, whom he casually calls Prakash, his opinions come undone. When the Swami is arrested, Bala fights on his behalf because his gut feeling tells him that there is more to the picture than he can see. What is the truth? Will Bala be able to uncover the mystery or is the Godman playing him? How will he balance this tumultuous turn of events and his failing family life?
2017 has been so great so far in terms of books that I have been able to read. This one here has been just another 5 star book. There. I said it. Right in the beginning because it deserves it.
What made me pick this one up from the mountain of books on my TBR was the title and when I read the blurb and found out that it was based on a mystery surrounding a Godman, I knew I had to devour this one first because apparently, suspense and I aren’t good friends.
In India, there are gurus and Godmen who are hailed as Gods and often caught in scandals and scams and come a-falling from their unreachable pedestals. In movies like OMG, Holy Smoke! Etc, books like The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff or even documentaries calling out such practices, I’ve seen outrage, sympathy and even apathy against such people. This unique take of a thriller amidst such a scenario caught my eye and I couldn’t put it down!
When an author picks up a character such as Bala Kamath to be the protagonist and the core narrator of the plot, it can go two ways. It can either shatter the story and completely ruin the whole book or it can give the story the edge and rawness it needs and uplift the whole novel. This one, obviously falls into the latter category. It was the sheer ingenuity of Bala, his temperament, cynicism, skepticism, loud mouthed aggression and down to earth relatablility which made it an extraordinary read. Just like Bala, I started off with skepticism about Swami Sarvananda and continued to doubt myself, if I was being played and that was what sold the novel to me. I journeyed with him as he fumbled and faltered and unraveled the truth.
Considering the fact that he is an obviously flawed character, his determination to overcome his addiction and rekindle the relationship with his wife and daughter isn’t something that the author used to bank on to push forward the plot. The writing style is eloquent, bold, intimidating and very, very beautifully crafted. Interspersed with themes such as betrayal, fallacy, love and friendships, the author has done a commendable job of introducing them without leaving behind an overpowering taste of melodrama.
The mystery of whether or not the Swami is a fraud and if Bala is finally able to uncover the truth keeps you glued until the very end. The twists and turns aren’t just there for the shock factor but are instead cleverly woven in without making the plot predictable or boring.
As I said right in the beginning, this is a hands down 5 star read and is and definite must read for everyone. This is Indian Writing at its glorious best.
Disclaimer : I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Until next time!