"The feet had to run. The heart had to fly"I am still huffing, puffing and panting under the influence of this littler-than-marathon journey I undertook under author Girish Kohli's incredible penmanship, and I thought it fit, that before the inebriation dissipates, I put across to my readers what a book as unconventional and irreverent as Marathon Baba had in store for a reader of conventional, time tested fiction like me.
In one word, the book was 'awesome'. In two words, the book was 'freakin' awesome'.
Alright, very high on the adrenaline. Lets not sprint too far ahead before we get down to the basics.
In the author's own words, Marathon Baba is perhaps the world's only book written as an ode to a pair of unused running shoes. Technically, at this point while writing a review, I should have glided into a presenting a synopsis of this 254 page long-but-short-cuz-it-leaves-you-asking-for-more book. Kohli's wicked deftness with his pen incapacitates me from doing that. This is one book which prides on and revels in its unabashed, brazen and absurd humor. The protagonist of this book is Karna, who begins much like the guy next door whom the world does a fine job of chaining down in its rigors and customs. However, Karna then decides to break free and run. At the very outset, he is warned- "running is injurious to health", but scarce down he pay notice when his feet have decided to fly and his heart has decided to sprint across into a world he can concoct from scratch for himself. When any of us might think of running away, we might want to do just that, 'sprint' ahead into a new life. But Karna was wiser than that. He realized life is not a sprint, it is but a marathon, where running is not about the 'pace', but about the 'peace'. And so he runs, not just for himself, but for many more like him.
Traversing through a mythical terrain, he exits the bounds of his city, to cross towns which faintly, yet imposingly resemble some of our cities with pronounced historical and mythological significance. In an inexplicable (divine, perhaps) turn of events, all the running turns Karna red- the red color only being a precursor to his soon to be acquired haloed status- Karna: The Red God. Discovering by accident a huge pile of weed, Karna establishes the Marathon Ashram by the revenue acquired from clever drug peddling. The Ashram houses other runaways like him, who, admitted after clearing very stringent admission criteria, are allowed to lead a life of their choice within its sacred precincts. How and what transpires inside the Ashram, a tale of deceit, love, trust, betrayal, redemption, ploys, blackmails, and much else- all woven together in perfect craziness, the kind which left me flabbergasted, is not in my capacity to describe. Want to know? Grab a copy as soon as you can. If you know me, borrow mine. All I can assure you is that you will love the madness which greets you as you turn the pages of this phenomenal debut effort of author Girish Kohli.
What clicked for me at the very first go, even more than the fashionably filmi cover of the book, was the author's note in the beginning. Once you've read it, you will realize you are entering some pages which will drip with wit of the finest kind. The first few pages will corroborate your initial assessment. This is a book written with a flair which makes each sentence of it quote-worthy, and no, I am not exaggerating. Girish Kohli knows his stuff. Wacky, witty and even oddly weedy- you will get a taste of all of it in this book. For the language- 10/10. For the flight of imagination- 10/10. For trashing conventional styles of writing- 11/10.
It is, according to whatever horizons my knowledge of English literature extends to, an absolutely original work, which gives you a break and which also gives you a kick. I've called the book mad, but probe deeply enough and you will know that some odd and unfortunate realities of our mundane existence have been conveyed by the author in very sharp, satirical tongue. I don't know if the author is a Douglas Adams fan, but I did get a whiff of his kind of humor at places in Marathon Baba. And laced with sarcasm, crude ironies and direct puns, that is very high quality humor. I don't know what Kohli can write after writing this book which has a dangerous degree of accolades coming for it, I am sure, from all sides, but as a reader, I am already looking forward to his next. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the depiction and description of each character in this book is as kick-ass as this whole book promises to be.
Kick Ass Fiction- Yes, it is definitely the genre this book belongs to. Rating it would be tough, but 3.5 on 5 stars just about sounds correct for this unbelievably original narrative. What I forgot to mention earlier was that besides some awesome tongue-in-cheek lines and endearing absurdities, this book also floats on the author's brilliant poetic credentials. The rhymes are fun, childish- but they work so well, that you almost decide upon mugging up a few of them. I did.
So that this one review does not become a Marathon, I will consciously apply my breaks.
Dear Mr. Kohli, you have cultivated a fan in me. Hoping for some great new book from you in future. Marathon Baba is a job exceedingly well done. Pat (to sound like a loud slap, to convey the alacrity and appreciation) on your back!
(Reviewed on request from FingerPrint)