|No. of Pages:||304|
About The Book
Bala Kamath is a burnt-out alcoholic investigative journalist on the verge of losing his job with the media house for which he works. As a last chance to save his career, he is sent on an assignment to a small town near Mangalore, to investigate a godman, one Swami Sarvananda, who, it is alleged, had stolen money, sheltered criminals and tried to rape a devotee. He visits the godman's ashram the next day and finds a bond building between the Swami and himself. By the time the Swami is arrested on charge of attempted rape, Bala is sure that there's more to the case than meets the eye, a feeling confirmed by the emergence of a dubious politician and his strongman, the murder of the Swami's second-in-command and by a series of jailhouse chats with the Swami. When the Swami refuses to meet him any more, Bala returns to Bangalore to face his own failing marriage, resurrect his relationship with his teenaged daughter and retrieve his career. Meanwhile, the Swami is released on bail and disappears.
In tracing the Swami's story and discovering the murderer, Bala discovers more about himself than he had bargained for…
Godmen have a nasty reputation in India, mostly for good reason. Even as followers throng opulent ashrams and write away their wealth for a chance to serve swamis, nary a month goes by without allegations against these gurus, of cheating, sexual harassment or even murder, hitting the headlines.
Shashi Warrier's new book,The Man Who Wouldn't Be God, published by Speaking Tiger, explores the enigma surrounding a godman who doesn't believe in god and the crimes he has been accused of. Balaram Kamath, a Bengaluru-based alcoholic journalist, has been given an ultimatum by his old friend and boss: Write a good investigative feature on the Swami's case or be prepared to leave the magazine he has co-founded. A talented reporter who was once described as a "bloodhound" by an adversary, Bala, has watched his career and marriage go steadily down the drain with each drink he pours. With much at stake, he decides to give himself one more chance and packs his bags for Mangalore.
The tale gets complicated when Bala discovers a fascination for the Swami, the person he has come to investigate, and finds himself unable to believe in the godman's guilt. When the Swami is arrested, Bala decides to stay on in Mangalore for some time to find out what's really going on at and around the ashram.
What works best in this book is Bala's voice. The reader shares in his quiet excitement as he revisits old contacts and brushes off long-forgotten skills to try and find the truth and save his job. Bala's addiction to alcohol, too, is depicted honestly, and when he discovers that he "can't drink and be a bloodhound at the same time", the reader roots for him to find the strength to say â€˜no' to this potent mix that has been ruling his life for years.
Warrier takes his time to set the tone, with descriptions of Bala's day-to-day activities, thoughts, conversations and drinking episodes. This doesn't weigh down the book too much, as the reader is also invested in the journalist's personal and professional crises.
The long, philosophical conversations between Bala and the Swami, however, begin to drag, impeding the pace at which the story moves along. The Swami is a compelling figure for Bala, but not so much for the reader who only sees him through Bala's eyes. Also, the main plot, which involves the murder of a not-very-interesting side character, becomes too convoluted in places.
The story picks up again once the action moves back to Bengaluru, where Bala tries to reconnect with his daughter and figure out what he wants to do about his marriage. His wife Mohini is made to look like a shrew, mainly because she is never given a chance to speak for herself in this book.
Though there are a couple of twists which save the main plot at the end, what this reader enjoyed were the little nuggets of truth, mostly about familial relationships, that Warrier sprinkles throughout Bala's narrative. Though the book provides a resolution for Bala's story, this is one character the reader may not mind spending more time with.
Article: 'Beast in the belly', published by The Statesman on 11th September.
Article: Book review published by Live Mint on 31st August
Article: A Thrilling ride published by The Hindu on 29th August.
About The Author
Shashi Warriers' latest novel is a murder mystery and family drama rolled into one
When his contemporaries were trying their luck at penning the Great Indian Novel 20 years ago, journalist and motorbike enthusiast Shashi Warrier penned a thriller, Night Of The Krait. His portrayal of the life of a hangman in The Hangman's journal won critical acclaim. His latest novel, The Man Who Wouldn't Be God (Speaking Tiger, Rs.350) is a fast-paced thriller that involves alcoholic journalists, shady god men and an eclectic bunch of characters.
At the Bengaluru launch of the novel, Shashi was in conversation with writer Zac O'Yeah.
Talking about the book, Shashi said, " It is a mix of multiple elements. The book focuses primarily on a murder mystery, with an out-of-job alcoholic journalist looking at the case as a means to redeem himself. In the course of the murder mystery, he also takes a look at his own issues and arrives at some sort of realisation about the life he should lead. A spiritual quest is also thrown into the mix."
He adds, " Though a swamy and his ashram play a very important role in the book, I am rather wary of god men. I am an atheist and do not believe in a supreme power as such."
Zac O'Yeah stated that the surfeit of complex and well-etched out characters make Shashi' s books very readable. Shashi responded, "I like thrillers that holds up a mirror to me and society. I think that people show their true self under pressure. A thriller provides a writer the best device to put the characters under pressure and see how they react." Starting off with a children's book, Shashi switched genres soon. "
I realised that I do not know the craft of writing books for children well. I started writing thrillers after a routine conversation with publisher David Davidar and have enjoyed the journey."
Shashi admitted that he does not follow any writing routine. " My working day starts at 9 in the night. I tend to write at night. I tend to bumble a lot and rewrite many passages. Most of my books start with one interesting character. I do not flesh out a plot in the beginning, since the plot changes dramatically as the characters develop. I would say that I do not have much control on the writing process as such. In this book, I had to rework an entire portion, because I decided to tweak the role of a principle character."
Shashi claimed that he does not read many Indian writers. " I tend to read e-books and have discovered not many Indian authors are available in digital format."
He added that his next book, "is a political satire."
|Title:||The Man Who Wouldn't Be God||Publisher:||Speaking Tiger|
|No. of Pages:||304|