IN this novel, Ayyan Mani, the protagonist is a middle-aged Dalit, who was 27-years old when he married 17-year old Oja. They have a 10-year old son named Adi, who seems like a precocious child knowing much more than children of his age.
Ayyan passes his evenings on return from work to admire the seafront of Mumbai at twilight or ogle at attractive young women walking briskly with their “tired high-caste faces”. The thoughts that pass through his mind reveal how dissatisfied and jealous he is of the people of the city for having whatever they have and of which he is deprived. Dejected and disappointed, he often returns home to his chawl where he lives with his wife and son.
One day Ayyan enters into an argument over religion with his wife, who worships Lord Ganesh. He is not able to comprehend her love for Ganesh and every time he throws away one Ganesh idol, Oja goes and buys a new one. In exasperation, he tells her, “Isn’t Buddha enough? Buddha is our God. The other gods are gods the Brahmins created.”
But Oja says that their gods are hers because “I am a Hindu. We are all Hindus. Why do we pretend?”
Acharya is accused of fudging scientific data his life crumbles into a sad heap and the reader feels sorry for him.
The strange title of the book has been chosen to apply to both Ayyan and Acharya who are in their own way serious men, aware of their delicate positions though living in different worlds and harbouring different ambitions. Though Ayyan is the protagonist of the novel, it is Acharya who holds the reader’s attention.
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