Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Virgins by Siddharth Tripathi - A Review

Out in the market, there are many coming of age stories which are waiting to entertain and excite you; which are eager to lay in front of you fables of shedding naiveties and acquiring of a wise character. Most of them will serve you the regular fair - a carefree life, a deep, unassailable crisis, and then, what the Greeks will call, peripeteia and anagnorisis. For novels catering to young-adults, this is the staple diet. But then, you will come across that one novel, which will take you traipsing through the adventures of young boys, and make you feast on those events and incidents which turn those just-out-of-adolescence-kids into men-of-substance, and entertain you beyond your expectations. By the very cover of this book - The Virgins - I knew I was in for a treat. So glad am I for the fact that author Siddharth Tripathi made my gut feeling come true, in a manner of writing so colourful and crude, that it engages without effort and entertains till the very last page. 

To give a synopsis of the story of The Virgins is not easy, because this book does not bank on a storyline. Rather, it banks on a very strong plot, which extends into episodic narrative. It is these episodes (or adventures) which build the grand story. Very roughly put, The Virgins is the story of three boys - Pinku, Bhandu and Guggi - all born and nurtured in the sacred soil of Benaras. All three have interesting backgrounds to them, which they are consistently negotiating with, so as to find their own foothold in life. One is a school drop-out, innocent at first, sly later kind-of-guy, who is smitten with a plump girl responsible for his first trip to prison. Another is the product of a wrecked marriage, perhaps seeking solace in a 'firang' woman who is scarce aware of his presence. A third is the eternal troublemaker - whose only purpose of living is to invent impossible adventures, and then drag his friends into it. These three diverse characters - and a host of others are united in this unique book, which thrives on irreverence and an eclectic mix of characters. 

For me, the biggest strength of this book are, indeed, its characters. They are all known by nick-names, a mandatory tradition of Indian households; and they come in typical hues in lands of UP and Bihar. While most monikers are just the instinct of a doting parent, many others arise out of an urgent need to put a shameful label on a peer to highlight to the world his most embarrassing detail - the gift of friends who see you through years of puberty. The characters in this book are amusing, and teeming with life - they are created so deftly that they might even become unforgettable for you. The book comprises of several parallel narratives, and different characters peak at different points in the book. The best deal - no loose ends. All individual strands of the story are complete. You might want to keep this book away from kids, because of a very liberal sprinkling of expletives, though I have to admit, I did not find the cuss-words getting very creative, which is quite the norm in youth-novels these days. 

What was extremely creative was the opening of each chapter - with a quote or a verse, which was a strand of the story itself. The amusement begins at these tiny epigraphs, and continues till the last word of the chapter. Many of these epigraphs are clever, many are outright preposterous, but each has been placed with care, and blends seamlessly, but importantly with the storyline. The language is witty - sometimes simply funny, and you may catch yourself guffaw at places (I did!)

All in all, entertainment, expletives, adventures, and masala - you will find it all here - and what more do you need from a book which promises to give you a welcome break from the routine of life. Traverse the terrain of Benaras with an author who has seen the landscape from really close quarters. See Benaras beyond the sacred halo which centuries of fables have ascribed to it. Experience how the Ganga is not just a holy river, but a meaningful part of the lives of the locals. This, and much more - The Virgins is a complete package! A 3 on 5 star book for me!

Book Details -
Author - Siddharth Tripathi
Publisher - Fingerprint
Published - 2013
Book Source - Review Copy
Genre - Fiction
Price - Rs. 250
Pages -  320

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