CHOWDHURY’S novel is Hriday’s account of his student days in Patna and Delhi. His Patna days are quite absorbing, for we learn about his numerous escapades, the unbelievable manner in which he passes his final examination, and the interesting practice of pairvi for getting things done. We also get revealing details about people’s involvement with caste, community pride, and norms of honour.
In Delhi, Hriday joins the BA (Hons) course in English and takes a room in Zorawar Singh’s Shokeen Niwas, which is looked after by his confidant Jishnu da, who started as a student of Delhi University and ended as a leader of sorts. Zorawar is a colourful personality. His affair with Sunita forces her husband to commit suicide; when she discovers that he is carrying on with her sister Lado, she burns herself to death. Though he marries Lado, and has two daughters from her, he continues to run around with other women. The novel actually begins with an explosive scene about his sexual exploits with Smt Mirdha.
In his college, Hriday becomes friendly with Anjali Nalwa, but she does not admit their relationship in public.
In the climactic part of the novel, Hriday goes to teach Smt Mirdha’s daughter Sonya, gets involved in a fake shootout because of Jishnu da’s election politics, and is severally injured by him because he saves Sonya from the amorous attentions of Zorawar. He finally moves into a barsati, and concentrates on his writing.
Chowdhury handles characters and situations with commendable ease. His prose is quite pleasing and effectively captures the speech rhythms of the novel’s main characters. Laced with wit and humour, Day Scholar is a highly readable and absorbing novel.