One of my favourite book shops in Bangalore is Blossom on Church Street. It is a real book lover’s den, no fancy decor, no piped music, no PYTs in bright tees flashing plastic smiles. The good thing about the store is that the shelves are stacked with books and it has this nice smell of books remniscent of a University Library. You get used books and some rare books as well, I saw a hard bound edition of ‘The God of Small Things’. The only problem is that arrangement of books is a wee haphazard. I went straight to the Indian Authors section and I was looking for Richard Crasta, there were lots of books by R K Narayan and Ruskin Bond under the R section. Finally I asked one of the attendants who took me to the general section and dug out a book of Crasta, ‘One Little Indian’. To my question on why it was not under Indian Writing, he replied with a wan smile. I also found Purple Hibiscus in the Indian Authors section. I now have enough material to last me a couple of weeks, Crasta, Adichie and Vassanji. I was smacking my lips as I left.
I couldn’t wait to start on Crasta, I remember reading ‘The Revised Kama Sutra’ almost six years ago and cracking up. I did find some parts of Rohiton Mistry’s ‘Such a Long Journey’ humorous, but this one had me giggling. Most reviews of Crasta’s works have one recurring word – irreverent. And yes, he definitely mocks at established norms, icons and attitudes through his brand of self depreciating humor. The book is about the endearing Vijay Prabhu, living in a Mangalore that is repressive and highly orthodox. All the characters are seen through the eyes of Vijay, he paints each in his own shades and his own interpretations. His parents are typical of the meek Indian middle class, just trying to get along. The frustrations of a mediocre existence with no hope of affluence comes through pretty strongly despite being couched in humor. The uncles, the aunts, his Jesuit teachers are all living in that very sense of a time wrap. His trysts with sex, be it the anatomical exploration with Leela in school, his quest for erotic information from books, his unsuccessful visit to the brothel are quite comical.
The language is largely hyperbole and at times there is an element of strain in his effort to be consistently funny. However, he uses the unique nuances and expressions of Mangaloreans to good effect. Though the book is largely slapstick comedy, there is pain and frustration at a deeper level. The publishers could have done a better job with the packaging and layout, it is unappealing and has the risk of being passed over unless someone is hunting for this very book.
My recommendation is, read it; society can do with a good laugh.