Title : Bala Takes The Plunge
Author : Melvin Durai
Publisher : Hachette
My journey with books so far has taught me that readable fiction generally falls in either of these two very broad categories. But if a book fails to qualify to any of the following categories then I do not recommend that book, since readers do not get anything by spending their time and energy on it.
- Books offering some unique idea, out of the box thought, new plot, or some extraordinary event which has never been presented before.
- Books working on known plots or ideas but the outstanding handling and packaging of the same enable them to rise above the rest. From handling and packaging I mean - either the narration is very witty or engaging or presented in such a fashion that something is there for the readers to savor.
'Bala Takes the Plunge' belongs to the second category of writing. It reminds the readers of 'Inscrutable Americans' a lot and a little bit of Chetan Bhagat's '2 States' but the similarity with '2 States' ends with the South Indian flavor which is brought out through the narratives in both the books.
Bala belongs to a middle class family where the only permissible options to build a successful career are - medicine and engineering. Sounds familiar? Yes, this has been the mindset of Indian middle class because these two streams ensure a successful and happy life. But Bala harbors a lingering desire to direct a film and to cast his favorite star Rajinikanth in it. But this particular aspiration of his always triggers a passive opposite reaction from his parents making it an issue not even worth considering. Finally he relents to their dreams and manages to complete his engineering degree and as a perfect icing on the cake gets transported to America. His parents are contented that Bala stands a commanding position in the marriage market but Bala knows that, 'if he doesn't act fast, he might have to settle for whichever bride his Amma chooses' before he reaches the crucial '30' mark. In order to find a suitable match for himself, he tries many ways to meet different girls - by joining the book-reading club, cycling club and such. The author has attempted very intelligent humor in the narrative by bringing out the point about how opinions are formed about people based on the benchmark of - kind of games they play, the clubs they join or the books they read. In the end, Bala does 'take the plunge' but it is interesting to read how and of which kind.
Book has a quick pace to it and the readers would want to know where Bala's destiny takes him to. The tempo drops in the middle when there is a slight overdose of the matrimonial advertisements but then picks up again on a different note. The narrative gets a little serious after that and the story ends on a great note which seals the story delightfully. Its not a literary masterpiece but I think the author never aimed to write one, it’s a fun, light-read book full of witty puns, if you can just ignore a few pages and paragraphs where it tends to drag a little. A good editing would have removed this irritant too.