Manan by Mohit Parikh is the story of a 15 year old boy – a late bloomer in the literal sense. Yet to mature physically and physiologically. Smaller in size than his peers, he is treated like a kid by his friends, teachers and family.
An introspective novel, where the reader sees and hears the story from Manan’s thoughts. The narrative is third person, but one gets to hear Manan’s thoughts first hand and also gets to know him.
He is studious, serious, a topper, uses reason over emotion. A nerd. He does a lot of his thinking on the terrace – his favorite place. Is he naive or is he just simple? He is idealistic; he constantly analyses others and compares them to himself. Shy. In love? or a crush? or worse is it just an infatuation?
It is also about growing up in a specific period of time – the nineties, people in small towns lived in single-storied houses; vendors sold achar on pushcarts; young kids couriered notes between lovers; computers have just started proliferating; Mario is the rage amongst video gamers; the Internet is still a novelty.
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- The transition from childhood to adulthood is not the same for different people. While Salinger’s Holden seems to be the standard for most adolescents, Manan is no Holden. He is a person in his own right and describes his feelings and experiences. In fact I can identify with Manan a lot.
He, 140 cm, 35 kg, has been delayed by the weird whims of nature.
A buzz from somewhere deep inside him that is growing, muting everything he is watching and hearing, muting even the tumult in his head, so that all he hears now is the buzz. It sounds: eeeeeeeeeeee. But he is not really listening to it with his ears.
I’ve heard it; I hear it even now as I type this. Have you heard it?
“He murmurs the word sweetly, suspiciously, matter-of-factly, stutteringly. It becomes weird; unfamiliar then familiar. Meaningless then meaningful.”
- Manan’s antics when he is alone at home (something that a single child might do) brings a smile.
He dances garba, flashes biceps, tries the evil eye of the Undertaker and the strut of Tatanka, clenches his jaws tight and flaps his ears, rolls his eyes along the edge of the eye sockets, and wonders about lateral inversion – why is it left-right and not up-down?
- His writing and imagery, characterised by a heightened sense of perception, is good. Here is a snippet about recollecting a dream:
But what he recovers are wispy, disjointed images. He was inside those images, in the space and time of that other world, and now he is looking at the images from outside.
But the net energy of the school must remain within discipline, so the temerity of pupils is cancelled out by the torpor and indifference of teachers.
- The illustrations by Urmila Shastry are simple and adequate.
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- The language, at times, is peppered with scientific jargon; hard to read, obstructing the flow of the story.
Geotropism. Phototropism. Thermotropism. Life finding its way. That’s what that doctor in the Jurassic Park said.
But he sees only a sequence of images, a movie screening on a planar surface.
- It looked like a rough draft with numerous typos and editing lapses.
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- All of the (significant) characters are either peers or older than Manan.
- I am surprised at the maturity of thoughts felt and expressed by Parikh, considering that he himself must be pretty young.
Manan is no Holden, but certainly holds his own!
A copy of this book was given by the author, Mohit Parikh in return for an honest review. Thanks Mohit.