Way To Go by Upamanyu Chatterjee

I did not like Upamanyu Chatterjee’s, “English, August”. I did not like it one bit and I had good enough reasons for not liking that book, when my friends and family loved it and raved about it endlessly. When for instance, the movie released and there was Rahul Bose grinning at me from the cover of the book, or rather it was a sullen face I think he was trying to make, sitting comfortably on the shelves of Crossword, waiting to be picked by an eager reader. Sadly that book did not do it for me.

Having said that, I loved reading Way to Go. It is nothing like his earlier books, yet there are some characters who come back from The Last Burden – Shyamanand, Burfi and Jamun, Joyce, Kasturi, Pista and Doom – the entire clan is back in this one. But let me not get carried away – the review is about Way to Go and not The Last Burden.

The novel opens with a very strong sentence, “For not having loved one’s dead father enough, could one make amends by loving one’s child more?” – that being the essential crux somewhere down the line of the book as well. Jamun, the protagonist is now in his mid-40’s, his father who is the 85-year old, half-paralysed Shyamanand has now disappeared. His long-time solitary friend, Dr. Mukherjee has committed suicide and Jamun is trying very hard to grapple with the situation.

To add to this, his long estranged brother, Burfi returns home and they try to build from where they left off. There is the unscruplous builder Monga whose sole aim is to demolish their home and build something new (preferably a mall, I think) in its place. They say demons of the past do not let you rest, and it could not be more true for Jamun: His former lover Kasturi, who is now a hot-shot TV Producer is back with his son, and is only trying to use him for a forthcoming lacking lustre soap-opera. And the reader is left with Jamun’s perspectives – his thoughts, his inannity, his conciousness in the narrative – of what he could have done with the ghosts of the past, that now seem fidgety and will not let him rest.

The book, like all Mr. Chatterjee’s books is filled with biting sarcasm and dark humour. It is hilarious in places and in the others it just gives you nothing to chew on. There are uncalled for dashes and punctuation marks that leave the reader totally exasperated at times. And then the metaphors and on-goings of everyday life are described with such stark reality, that I could not help but love the writing (though I must add, that it screeched of verbosity in certain places).

At many levels, the book is intertwined with sub-plots. It is what makes the story a story after all. The dead and the ones who are missing are constantly featured – the book is about them. About the feeble attempt at what we call living, almost a farce. A must read and sometimes the only reason why one should recommend a book is because it is well-written and this one sure is.

4 thoughts on “Way To Go by Upamanyu Chatterjee

  1. modestine

    I thought the author had some powerful moments at the end of the novel, but in my view he didn’t ever get control over them. He does give us a picture of Indian bureaucracy — a valuable education for American readers. — Bookpod

  2. Rocky

    Kasturi is back with their (Kasturi and Jamun’s) daughter and not son as you have mentioned. ‘Way to go’ is better than ‘The Last burden’ which by itself was a masterpiece in my opinion.

  3. Kritika

    Hi, can you tell me what happened to the missing old man? I lost the book when I was half way through & I am dying to know the end..


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