‘You should be thankful to Ragini and to your father,’ Pinaki said sarcastically.
‘You should thank Ragini for marrying you and your father for helping you to be with your wife,’ I said and winked.
‘What was my role then?’ Amir asked as he felt irritated.
‘You just waited and watched things happen with you,’ Pinaki said and chuckled.
Calling ‘The Fortune Hunters’ a ‘journey of eternal love’ is being grossly over ambitious as the book is quite far away from any form of love. This one is a story of bumbling small town folk and the grossly garish life style they erroneously adopt in a larger city all in the hope of remaining invisible and not being singled out as being outsiders! If this is what Aslam Rahaman projects this book as, he will be giving his work the right market segment. If he insists on calling the book a ‘journey of eternal love’, the entire book suddenly transforms into one slap-stick incident stepping on the toes of another until all the one hundred and seventy-seven pages are over!
The quote that I began this review with is the only one that reflects whatever little truth this book carries within its pages. The lines are amazingly reflective of the gist of Rahaman’s work. The rest, as I said, is almost like even the author was waiting and watching pages filled up and wishing for some substance and depth to also magically fill up the spaces between the lines.
There is nothing at all in the book that qualifies Amir to be claiming to even talk of love – this fellow actually emerged more like a stand-up comedian trying to pose like Casanova or sometimes prefers to adopt the outward appearance of a toon hero but frantically searches for courage and conviction of ideas in all the crashing and crumbling going on around him! This guy is simply pathetic… and I began to pity him. Well, this is what Pinaki actually meant by his thinly veiled sarcasm. To this extent, the author seems to have done well and has actually produced a masterpiece in depicting all the gutless road-side Romeos which this novel is probably all about. No, I can emphatically say, this one is not about the subtleties of love, not even the Mills & Boon way.
The encouraging bits in the novel are those are reflective of small town interpretations… and the author tries to capture the moments in a language that fits the emotion. I loved the way Aslam has restrained his expression from becoming too good or sophisticated for what he is talking about. Passages like the one that I will now quote actually add to the charm of the work:
It was always bustling. It was a favourite place for my friends who never refused to visit it because of good, hi-fi, model-type girls. It was a pleasure to stare at such girls. We rarely bought anything from there because our pockets did not allow it.
Charming, I say… and I say this with a lot of conviction as I too am from a small town and have spent years behaving like a dolt with a thought process that stuns you every time you are within hundred yards of a city-bred girl. Aslam actually took me on a visit to some of the idiotic years from my own past and I cringed and squirmed uncomfortably as I read all the meaninglessness of the years wasted.
If you’ve ever been one who has stumbled through the English language and never understood it perfectly, you’d love passages like these that spring at you with a regularity that is unnerving:
‘Do you hail from Kolkata?’ Amir asked me.
‘I also hail from Lucknow,’ I told him, as I smiled and winked.
Well, if you’re from Mansa or Lucknow or Gwalior even you’d be hailing and winking a lot… and telling others that ‘the situation is under control and no abysmal incident has been reported’… or go on repeating that you ‘had worked hard for almost more than a month’… or go ahead and find nothing wrong if ‘the train honked’… so I hope you’ve got the drift of what I am trying to say. The author has used the language that suits the characters. I am presuming, of course, that the author is capable of giving us a perspective that is diagonally opposite of the story in this novel.
The story is of Amir who is telling about his love story to a couple of strangers in a Kolkata office… and this ought to tell anyone that things are going to get more and more bizarre. This guy Amir appears to be in some sort of a delusion that he represents true love when to a reader he appears like a skunk who hops from one female to another and declaring every time that he is finally in love with the right girl. Even when a part of him is craving for Ragini, the remaining thoughtless part inside him goes on and beds another girl just because he is unable to contain his urges. The novel attempts to bring in inter-caste marriages in a rather slip-shod and unconvincing manner… but I know this happens quite regularly in smaller towns. It is a known secret that most romances and elopements mature and happen between tongue-tied girls and unintelligent boys who happen to rely entirely on eye gestures from their open windows in houses that are separated by narrow lanes and by-lanes that measure not more than 3 feet. The density of such places is more in smaller towns. Well, this doesn’t happen in this novel though I was fervently hoping Rahaman would include some such adventures to justify the title that he had latched on to.
The book production is excellent but the cover design by Mishta Roy is, at best, mundane and uninspiring. The cover picture is true to the title and the information in the blurb… but had the designer read the book, she’d have known how inadequate the blurb and the title are in this case.
Title: The Fortune Hunters: A journey of eternal love
Author: Aslam Rahaman
Publisher: Frog Books
05 October 2012