Just when things were seeming banal & my zaniness with this once-in-ablue moon updated blog of mine was peaking, I rekindled an old passion, thanks to “Lockdown” or China for that matter, the Bibliolater in me, got surrounded by books all over again. So, starting this corner to help my readers & souls from the Bibliophage tribe pick up the always healthy habit of reading – detox for the lockdown souls!
Reviewing this 1988 book , which also had been adapted into a film of the same name ; that, surprisingly enough you can’t watch in any medium as no copies exist!! So, live the tale through the book itself.
We are introduced into the character, Agastya Sen (a name which oddly enough is being ridiculed at every other occasion in the book later) aka Ogu, or August, the prime mover of the story, South Delhi, 24 YO who has studied abroad, however, quite efficaciously finds himself posted as an IAS in the sleepy & nondescript town Madna nestled in the hinterlands of Western India.
Starting from the point of Agastya’s arrival in Madna, the ensuing struggle to accommodate into the mindset of the good-for-nothing, quaint place, described to make it seem even more belching to the reader. This takes up quite a few pages of the book, surprisingly enough, I was transported back to the initial few days of my hostel life, the perceptibly graphical descriptions of the rest house, or the cook’s rancid food.
As we move on, new characters are made known in Agastya’s dolorous life including his boss, elements from the bureaucratic machinery, the joker of Madna- Sathe, his known yet unacquainted friend from college Bhatia, Mohan the list goes on. Through each of the character and their run-ins with Agatsya, the writer paints a scopic canvas that is best left to read ( This is a no-spoiler review!). Slowly, as Agatsya tries to calm his fretful soul & trains to adjust to what Madna has to offer, his secret escapades with Marijauna (which flows freely around!) , philosophical travails in parlance Marcus Aurelius, his friend Dhruba, and love (or not!) Neera, the Bhagvad Gita keep on appearing every now & then well knitted into the fabric of the plot. There is a dollop of honesty which is seen through the protagonist’s fantasies with women around, his daily rituals of self pleasure , the joints, et al. There is a rueful air around the boondoggling that Agatysa goes through every other day.
Finally, comes a stage when Agatsya decides to leave the madness of Madna behind and goes for a vacation to Delhi to join Toniq’s publishing firm, a vacation where everyone makes him repulse his decision of giving up a job as coveted & secure as the IAS ; only to return back and indescribably being drawn back into the humdrums, this time being posted as the BDO at another village and trying his bit to do some action! (If at all) .
Keeping the ending reserved for the readers! However, trust me on my words and don’t be rhadamanthine on your mental prognostication of Agatsya’s step, as there might be slender deviations.
The book draws a wonderful vignette of India in the eyes of Generation X, the chaos, a sarcastic take on the functioning of government machineries from the grassroots, with the freshness of view of a recently posted IAS , the ache for obvious social circle, of coming in terms to abrupt changes in lifestyle among many others. Even though the story progresses at a modicrum pace, the author makes up for it by introducing a host of animated characters betwixt , with an absolute link to Agatya’s contrite existence .This review may not be able to capture the vastness of the canvas that Upamanyu has drawn even with an iota of entirety.
The movie adaption of English August (check reference links below), starring Rahul Bose as Agatsya went on to win multiple awards internationally including the coveted National Award for Best Feature Film (1995). Sadly, prints are destroyed, and a restoration is in progress. I am sure by now, even you might be fervently waiting for the movie to release for online streaming, till then, grab the book!
(P.S : Je Promets , I will be updating my blog with content more often!)
Preview / Order the book at :
Featured Image Source – Amazon.com