Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review : The Journey of Om


Title : The Journey of Om
Author : Chandru Bhojwani
Publisher : Pustak Mahal
ISBN : 978-81-223-1091-7

Om, a columnist for a magazine is a sensitive and emotional lover who very diligently expresses his emotions to his lover Preeti and shows her that he really cares. But as a strong punch in the stomach he gets to witness his girlfriend cheating on him. That very moment of betrayal makes his whole life fall apart and he takes refuge in his trusted friends and liquor. Typical melodramatic bad breakup phase follows. As the story progresses, Om keeps trying to put the past behind him and to move on but finds hard to do so as the memories of past tend to overpower him during the unguarded moments. He continues finding solace in losing his sensibilities to liquor. Some of the side stories about his close friends - Arun and Mona are added to the narrative displaying the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of different individuals, in different situations and at different junctures in life. Through the side stories, the author brings in cross cultural and cross country relationships, which are not alien to people now. This helps in giving a contemporary and modern feel to the story.

Throughout the book, a very informal tone of narration is adhered to, depicting the waves of emotions that Om experiences. The characters come across as very believable and the precise and detailed portrayal of their inner feelings make them so. Om is introduced as a person next door, nothing special or extraordinary about him. But as the story moves forward he starts resembling more like a spineless person who lacks determination and confidence both. But then no single character from the story rises above to potentially make an indelible mark on reader's mind. The weak plot offers nothing new and the handling also fails to garb it into any new packaging.

For a debut writer, Chandru does have the flow in his writing and the ease with which he connects the past events with the present is commendable. There are some occasions when the wit and humor are attempted to be brought in the narrative but much remains unfulfilled. If you are looking to satisfy your literary appetite, I would say this is not the one. If you must, read it once to appreciate the effort of a budding Indian author in the literary firmament. Hope to see some more substance and quality from the author in future.

10 comments:

  1. The Journey of Om by Chandru Bhojwani is a pacifying read with a somewhat alluring prose. The author's style of writing is very different from what an Indian reader is generally accustomed to-First person, Omniescent POV, Articles, Flashbacks, et al. Sometimes it is difficult to trace the continuity of the plot in a new chapter as the author keeps switching tracks but reading a few lines soon clears your dilemma. The messages conveyed so subtly are actually things that we were always aware of but never gave it a second thought. The protagonist's struggle and his loyalities with his friends manage to make you keep the page turning and sometimes the analogies pull you off and take you to a completely different world. The open ended climax scene is a brave attempt and the reader ponders over hoping that the story would end as he had desired. The short articles in the middle are strangely honest and humorous and display Bhojwani's perfect journalistic acumen. This one's going to dazzle my bookshelf for quite sometime and is a must read for people who have loved or lost or maybe both. I give it a handsome 4/5

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  2. If there is a simple, yet compelling way to tell a story about complex human relationships, this is it. Through effective narration of every day life events, 'The Journey of Om' unfolds an intricate plot and a powerful world of emotions so effortlessly, it feels unintentional.

    The gentle pace and build of the story is delectable. The authors' ability to empathise is contagious and makes 'The Journey of Om' essentially everyone’s story.

    With so much to relate to, you’ll be excited about the next chapter before the one you’re on ends.

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  3. What an amazing experience. This was a 5 of 5 for me - I really felt for OM. Hard to imagine that mere words would envoke such emotion for the reader but Chandru Bhojwani did an amazing job doing just that. Pathos is an art and he seems to have mastered it !

    The columns written by Om in the book were both poignant and witty, not to forget accurate, making me laugh out loud !

    Kudos to Bhojwani - looking forward to more !!!

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  4. Finally stumbled upon a gem of a debut book written by a young author of Indian origin, Chandru Bhojwani. I bought the kindle version of The Journey of Om and wanted to read it during my journey while I was traveling recently. The book turned out to be such a good read that I finished reading it before I boarded the plane.

    This is a story of Om. Om finds his girlfriend Preeti in an intimate moment with Ravi, one of their common friends. The incident makes his heart break into a million pieces and the journey of healing begins. The world of complicated human relations is told with such ease that it does not feel like there was effort put into thinking about the plot. The story is deep and intricate and leaves the reader empathizing with its characters. There is something about the book that made me feel I knew every one of the characters. Chandru brilliantly blends emotion and humor and makes daily life so real that it is hard to believe that it is a story that is being told. The pace is so exciting that I forgot that it was time to check in my baggage and get my boarding pass.

    If you have aspirations of writing a story yourself, I would say start with reading this book. It is a perfect example of how various elements of writing should be blended to make a gripping story. I would give it a complete 5 on 5. An absolute must read.

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  5. An amazing book! It drew me in from the outset. Eloquently written and as intended the characters were easy to relate to.

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  6. Where do you slot a book like ‘The Journey Of Om’? It’s all about love, the falling in part, and the falling out part and yet it’s not exactly a love story. It’s about three friends who stick together through the highs and lows of their often-tumultuous lives and yet it’s not a book that is just about friendship. It’s about Desis living out their lives as it happens in the expatriate locations of America and Hong Kong and yet it’s not all about the foreign-born confused Desi struggling to come to terms with their ‘Indian’-ness.

    The story that Chandru Bhojwani weaves in ‘The journey of Om’ is all that and much, more. The story begins as the title character Om finds himself being cheated on by Preeti, the love of his life. What ensues is Om’s journey to climb out of the abyss he descends into with this betrayal. The story tracks his journey of self-discovery as he tries to regain emotional stability. To help him come to terms with his loss, Om turns to two of his closest friends, Arun and Mona. What he doesn’t count on, however, is how quickly the role of being a supportive friend is reversed.

    The writing is simple and not overly flowery. The narrative switches from the past to the present and back many a time, yet it does not spoil the pace. Om is well fleshed out and the reader gets to know him from the multiple perspectives of him and his friends. The reader sympathizes with him and then flinches at his hypersensitivity. Even then, Om remains a very real character that one can relate to. Of the supporting characters, Mona’s story is well told. One wishes that Jim had been given a little more space in the book as somehow it is hard to reconcile his character’s actions with his personality as described. Monica, while a thoroughly enjoyable character, is a little too stereotypical for me. Though her dialogues are top-notch, she is everything that you would expect a cutthroat publishing executive or a magazine editor to be. The author’s characterization of the Sindhi community in Hong Kong is a little too dark and harsh for my taste. I would have preferred a shades of grey .

    The most inspired pieces of writing in ‘The journey of Om’ are the columns that Om writes for the magazine. Carrie Bradshaw-esque in style, and with a very male take on the opposite gender, relationships and even the foibles of the NRI community. The column on ‘Aunties’ is one that many of us would be able to relate to. Without giving away too much of the plot, the one thing I can reveal about the conclusion is that it is an open one. Now though I generally like books to have a resolution, tied up neatly with a bow, I cannot see the ending of ‘The Journey of Om’ in any other way but this. After all, in the journey of life there are no fixed destinations or picture-perfect endings and this is what the conclusion reflects.

    Born in Nigeria and brought up between Nigeria, UK and India, Chandru Bhojwani has told this NRI tale with aplomb. The book betrays none of the awkwardness that you might expect from a first time writer. And while ‘The Journey of Om’ might not make it’s way to your well-thumbed favourites just yet, the author will certainly make it to your ‘Indian authors to watch out for’ list.

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  7. When a book starts with an emotion, you can be sure it will be interesting. That’s what I found out through The Journey of Om. Bhojwani starts his debut novel with the word “cold”, and it isn’t just the feeling of cold water he’s talking about here – it is the chill you feel in your heart when you’ve lost someone/something precious to you.

    ‘Om’, also spelt ‘Aum’, is the most sacred symbol and syllable in many religions and communities. It represents ‘Brahman’, ‘perseverance’, ‘wholeness’ and a journey undertaken to reach your goals. With the protagonist of the story, too, Om’s life has been a journey. Undertaken in two levels – one unto himself, delving within his mind and ideals to discover his life; and, the second, a journey to reach out to others in a bid to discover himself – it portrays Om’s transformation from a dejected lover to a responsible and better human being. Once he’s betrayed by his beloved, Preeti, he’s on a downward spiral: the usual drinking spree, rejection, indifference to others and a general feeling of self-pity and hatred.

    He finds solace by reaching out to his friends Mona, Arun and Jim for help, but only temporarily. He then realises that others, too, have their share of love, betrayal and confusion to deal with. Here, we see that instead of clinging on to his friends for his survival, Om himself becomes a rock for his friends. The ones he sought for comfort now turn to him for advice.

    As days and months go by he becomes stronger and faces life without the earlier apprehensions. He becomes a very giving person: consoling his friends, lending an ear to their troubles and helping them out when needed. He’s still not over Preeti; a corner of his heart will always be waiting for her. But his occupation with his friends’ lives keeps her out of his mind, though only to resurface time and again.

    Bhojwani’s choice of words is very simple, making it an easy read. His descriptions are vivid and sometimes, witty. Tense and sorrowful situations may suddenly seem light only because of the particular words used by the author, adding positively to his distinctive style. My favourite character in the story is Sunil, Mona’s friend. Not so much for his rude behaviour but because his character unravels step by step and in a corresponding manner. Bhojwani lets out each trait of his characters subtly, without disturbing the pace of the story, but by kneading them into it. The choice of cover of the book reflects deeply – a knotty line that criss-crosses the page – and indicates the plot of the story, too.

    The dropping of most of the characters’ surnames lends a very personal touch to the story – making the story yours and mine. What Om goes through, becomes what you and I would. Om’s love becomes ours; Om’s defeats in life become ours; Om’s hopes become ours; Om’s search for stability and being becomes ours… and so on.

    Autobiographical elements of the story give it a reasonable connect with the author. Om’s job as a writer, various places and events mentioned in the story, and certain passages reflecting the author’s earlier works all blend well into the plot. He has been able to portray something as sorrowful as a person’s betrayal and revival in a very capturing manner. An oft-repeated storyline comes alive with Bhojwani’s technique of impressing readers by talking about something that each one of us would have gone through at some stage in life. Thus, making it every man’s journey.

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  8. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving comments here. I respect different POVs.

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  9. The Journey of Om is an absolute must read. An easy to follow and entertaining read…this book portrays the character of Om battling his feelings for his love, who has betrayed him. Even though he is completely heartbroken and torn, I love how he shows immense strength throughout the book. There are moments of weakness though but he seems to bounce back. This is what makes the character of Om so real and the manner in which the author presents all the characters is so real, you can totally relate to each person’s experience at some point. I especially loved the piece about the various “Aunty” stereotypes. Even a Non-Indian person reading this book would be chuckling away because it depicts quite a comic insight into the Indian/Sindhi culture. The Journey of Om encompasses a fabulous blend of emotions, one of which is addressing jealousy in a very healthy form. The ending leaves the reader in complete intrigue wondering what next…hope there’s a sequel! - Reshma Varughese (United States)

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  10. Ashwina P KirpalaniOctober 6, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    The Journey of Om is a page turner full of fun twists. It came together brilliantly at the end and kept me wanting more. Definitely looking forward to the next book.

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