Aniruddh Hirani, a rich, madly-in-love-with-his-Ducati Stephenian with an IQ of 153 (Einstein’s was 160, or so says Ani) finds himself at the feet – and quite literally so -of a witty albeit poor IITian from Goa, Aparajita Pinto. Thus begins a love story that most youngsters of today would be able to identify with. Dates at Dilli Haat and House of Ming, super (pardon the gaffe, I meant uber) cool bikes, holiday in Goa, loving albeit conservative parents who can’t imagine their Hindu son marrying a Catholic girl and 26/11. Yes, debut author Abhimanyu Jha picks up everyday characters and tells us their story, a story situated in a world where bullets and bombs are no longer confined to traditional battlegrounds. You, me or the person next door- anybody can be a victim. But what happens when you discover that the person you left your home and parents for, is holed up in a hotel that has been taken over by terrorists? What happens when you can hear her fear, her terror and yet can’t reach her? What happens when her battery dies out and there is no news? When all you see are visuals of death and destruction flashing across television screens, and yet not one of them shows you the face that you desire to see most?
The strength of Jha’s novel lies both in the timeliness its plot and the commonality of its characters. Apu and Ani, are indeed the guy and the gal next door. So is their love story. There is nothing extraordinary in it. It could have been your story or mine; perhaps therein lies its charm. The style of narration is also interesting. The protagonist recounts his love story between periodic updates on the current terror situation (current being 26/11). This to and fro provides momentum and ensures that the story does not drag.
The language is colloquial – exceedingly so. It is almost as if the author has transcribed an audio tape. There is nothing literary in here – no subtlety of language, no word play, no poetry. In their stead are the cusswords, abbreviations and “cocky” slang that characterize the vocabulary of teenagers today. So you have words like baski (basketball is way to long), senti, uncomfy, coz, phattu and crud sprinkled liberally across the book. The facebook lingo with a heavy (at times, unbearably so) dose of Hinglish is so evident that at times it seems contrived. But then perhaps the intention of the author was to produce a book for mass consumption in the language of the masses. For like it or not, Hinglish has become the language of the masses today.
If you are looking for a contemporary Indian love story that you can identify with, pick up A Dilli-Mumbai Love Story.