By Manisha Lakhe
The Great Indian Publishing Machine has been churning out Indian writing in English for years now. Most of it is culture-apologetic, where authors explain how idlis are “steamed rice dumplings”, and other “literary” novels are plain pretentious pomposity where the authors suffer from a colonial hangover, write paragraph after convoluted paragraph to show how clever Indians can be in writing a “foreign” language. But when you come across a story that casually embraces the English language to tell the story from gun country, which is completely Hindi centric, is a rare thing of joy.
The author Prashant Yadav is not just telling us a story in The Jeera Packer, he is telling it with love. Love for the language as well as for the characters.
“The car moved as slow as the thoughts in the professor’s head” followed by: “Why would he and his son be thrashed with chappals and thrown into jail?”
No apologies for using Indian colloquial English where people do tend to put “me” first as in Hindi (“main aur meri tanhaai” as an example). But you forget this and enjoy sentences that describe the traffic jams you have experienced in person.
The immediacy of the events in the book is remarkable. The author takes you to wherever the characters are. In the car with the “lal batti”, inside the politician’s den, and even to the workshop where the Bullet is treated like god.
If you’ve met a motorbike aficionado, or are one, you will love everything about the Bullet in the book. Not just Abdul and his passion, his philosophy (the motorbike lads don’t just drive with passion, but live the philosophy unique to each rider, and the author seems to knows that), but also how graciously the protagonist teaches his son to ride his Bullet when he realises that he may be going out in flames. The son Abhishek has to walk back with the bike… If you have ever attempted to ride that Bullet, that God of a bike, then you’d have complete sympathy with the son, who has to walk the beast back because it just won’t start for novices…