Daily Archives: September 7, 2010

Day Scholar by Siddharth Chowdhury

Alright, I loved and enjoyed reading Patna Roughcut by the author. I was blown by the use of language and imagery considering it was his first book close to five years  ago, if I am not mistaken and before I knew it the second book was out, aptly titled, “Day Scholar”.

The book is about what happens when innocence is tested. Will you or won’t you? It is about a group of boys wanting to become men, without knowing how. It is about sometimes the wrong choices one makes without knowing and at some level has to get through it all and become a better person.

The story is set in 1992, told from the perspective of Hriday Thakur who has arrived to Delhi, fresh-faced and with delusions from Patna with his friend Pranjal Sinha. They stay at a house owned by Zorawar Singh Shokeen (love the pun in the name) – a Delhi muscleman who runs politics like a slithering snake. The house is bang in the centre of the University North Campus, which runs as a hostel for young boys. And there begins the journey of the narrator. To writing about Madam Midha – who is a moll rolled into a mistress for Zorawar to Jishnu Da – the leader of the young recruits for violent campaigns.

In the midst of all this there lies the story of Hriday making that step from adolscence to adulthood. The set principles of caste, religion, and class do not make the growing up any easier. Hriday at the same time is also falling in love and pursuing Madam’s fourteen year old daughter Sonya, amidst literature, reading and writing.

That’s the gist of the tale. Well almost. There are parts that take your breath away at times. For instance, the interaction between Hriday and Ritwik at the British Council Library or (personally for me) the cigarette he smokes with a beggar. Brilliant vividness – almost makes you imagine and that’s part of being a good book. The rest comes from the characters and their thoughts. The only time I was disappointed was when there were no larger parts of Madam Midha. I wanted to know more about her. Truly.

I am leaving you with the last line of the book, “I would sttay there for years. I wrote many stories there. Some published, many unpublished. But I wrote and kept myself alive”.

Day Scholar, Chowdhury, Siddharth; Picador India, Rs. 250