I had heard a lot about, “Arzee the Dwarf” by Chandrahas Choudhury. A lot of people had recommended it. Some suggested that I do not read it. I finally did and I found it to be quite alright. I liked the premise of the book for sure. There were some parts that I had trouble going through but that is for later.
“Arzee the Dwarf” as the title suggests is a slice of life of a dwarf’s life. Of course there is more to it, but that is putting it simply. Chandrahas writes about lost hopes, dreams, love and the times we live in quite eloquently. Let me now tell you something about the book and the plot.
“Arzee the Dwarf” is a metaphor, for the smallness and inadequacy that stays in all of us. Despite this though, life moves on and surprises us in ways unknown which at the core is what this book is all about.
Arzee searches for regularity in his life – a job, a wife, and the things that complete a man. He is always seeking these as consolation to his diminutive size. The novel opens to Arzee’s elation at assuming that he is going to be made the head projectionist at Noor Cinema, after his senior has resigned. He builds his dreams around this. That of keeping his family happy (his mother and brother), of getting married, and of rising up in the world (quite ironically so). But the cinema owners decide to shut the theatre, thereby crashing all hopes that Arzee has been harboring.
If this is not enough, he also owes money to cricket bookies who set loose a goon in the form of Deepak on him. The readers are exposed to power play in various forms – Of Deepak trying to exercise his strength (he is a huge man) and at times, pitying Arzee (but of course for the obvious reason) and letting him default with the payment, only to be back.
With such a host of different characters, Chandrahas takes us into a world, unknown to us, and yet connected to us in ways which we cannot imagine. The good thing about the book is the universal language that it speaks – that of loneliness and longing. Everyone can relate to it. Mumbai is seen differently in the book – it is comforting and at the same time looming large over Arzee and the life he aspires. Arzee represents all hopes of a world that come crashing down sooner than they are built.
There are times when the dwarf’s monologue is a little too much to handle, and of course then comes in the touch of self-pity, at almost every page. That is something I could not handle. I thought that could have been toned down a bit. The secondary characters were built on really well and sometimes not so. For instance, Deepak has had a strong characterization throughout the book, and on the other hand I wished to know more about Arzee’s mother and Monique, the hairdresser, but sadly could not.
The ending is vague but intended that way so maybe readers can draw their own conclusions. It does not spoon-feed the reader which is refreshing. Overall, Arzee the Dwarf stands as a testimony to the hopes we still hang to and the dreams we sometimes see even during the day.