Title: One Enduring Lesson
Author: Jamal Merchant
Publisher: Rupa Publications.
Price: Rs. 295
Snapshot: Eager to start a new phase in life, Rahul Saxena, 27, a half Indian-British citizen, recently out of job and rejected in love, lands in Mumbai from London to study film making. But little does he know that Mumbai, the city of dreams, will turn his life inside out. From the dark corners of the streets as a professional rat killer to the vermin-infested confines of the jail, from shady dance clubs to the homes of Mumbai’s rich women where he is paid to provide pleasure- fate takes him on a roller coaster ride that challenges his very will and determination to survive. When his secret life threatens to destroy even the love that he finds, Rahul seeks recourse in spirituality. Inspired by India’s synergic religious traditions, Rahul fights back internal and external demons to write his own destiny.
One Enduring Lesson is a tale of the undying human spirit of survival against all odds.
Review: One Enduring Lesson by Jamal Merchant is not entirely a love story. It has edges and corners that are brushed with a lot of other stories. It begins with Rahul Saxena, the protagonist in London- his loving parents and his dreams to do a film course in Mumbai. Soon, the boy lands up in Mumbai and is robbed left in a dark alley with tears and fate. As the drama unfolds, we are introduced to the various characters, most of which may well be caricatures of real life individuals about whom one reads almost every day. They are the myriad shades of well wishers, kind and caring like Irfan and David- the taxi drivers, Mrs. Perizaad Pestonji or fondly known as PP Auntie and her son Ratan. Rahul takes a sigh of relief in their care but living in Mumbai in a dire financial situation forces him to look for ways to make money. He joins as a Rat-killer in the wee hours of night but drastically fails to put up with it. And then, he comes across a friend (a beggar) suggesting a line of work as a gigolo. Rahul then slips into the name and identity of Radium meeting many ladies of the urban Mumbai living a deprived, painful lonely life. They all have different stories but the same desire. For once, I understand that this was the storyline set by the author but still I fail to understand why a boy from London who was working in a bank look out and only qualify for a job of a rat-killer or ends up being a gigolo. Radium then set free the lives of many females. He starts with just being a listener and then slowly falls as a pleaser to their physical needs.
All the characters are introduced with an objective and each of them has a separate character-sketch, even if their parts may be minuscule. Soon, Rahul’s life becomes as deplorable as it is enigmatic. In course of same, Rahul meets Julie Singh who is a widow struggling with her own dilemma. The two form an unspoken relatable bond. Starting as friends, they soon express their love for each other and Rahul suddenly feels in control of his life once again. However, life is not a smooth ride. A slip of Rahul’s truth about his secret life as Radium spills the beans turning his love life upside down. Lost in despair and dark, he seeks the spiritual guidance to piece his broken life back. At this point, it seems the author has smoothly pulled all the strings and tied it to the almighty for solace, redemption and absolution.
Any narrative, no matter how good, can fall flat. The sad sordid lives after a point could not hold interest for long. The author's take on those females is quite poignant and cast a compelling look at sophisticated urban lifestyle. The author has cited various issues through these stories chained in the locks of culture and traditions like homosexuality, childless couples or a plight of a lady bearing with a rich husband who converted his religion to marry. Also, I applaud the author’s take on religion, the way he knits the best of every religion. The writing is simple and eloquent. The storyline can strike a chord with today’s youth. It was a fast-paced breezy read.
Positives: A thought provoking breezy read with lucid writing and well sketched characters.
Negatives: A bit too far stretched and slightly meandering.
Verdict: The book talks about the undying spirit of survival against all odds. And so in a way has taught an enduring lesson for sure- to keep up with life and never give up! I would go with 3.5 stars for that positive spirit.
About the Author: Jamal Merchant came to England from Tanzania, East Africa in 1972 and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1976. He then settled in London where he is now self-employed as a property finance broker.
Jamal has travelled widely including to India, China, Egypt, USA, Canada and the Middle East. His interests include reading, current affairs, movies and cricket. One Enduring Lesson, a love story based in India, is his debut novel.
Book Reviewed by Shaily Bhargava:
Shaily is an Equity Technical Analyst by profession and an ardent reader, freelance writer, book reviewer by passion who enjoys most of her jolly little life in her cocooned dreamland cooking up stories. Her short stories are published by online literary magazines of repute like Storizen, eFiction India and in anthologies like- ‘Tell me a Story’ by Penguin India and ‘The first Brush on the Canvas’ by Half Baked Beans. Shaily finds her strength in the 3Cs-Coffee, Chocolates and Candy Crush.