Book review: True Dummy

True Dummy
True Dummy

Indian authors excite me. After years of searching for good Indian authors whose writing one could relate to, it has been a great ride for the last few years to find young authors with new stories to tell. So everytime I pick up a book, I try to find the early work of an author. It’s usually not jaded or typecast by himself/herself.

So when the opportunity arose to read Ashish Jaiswal’s debut novel “True Dummy“, I wasn’t going to pass. With no idea of the story line and little expectation (as I always maintain from debutante authors), I took the book along on a a trip. With about three hours to kill at the airport in the evening, I figured this was as good a time as any to start.

What are the essentials of a book that can keep you engrossed? A taut story, interesting characters, great setting and perhaps a happy ending? Some humor, romance or other ‘masala’ aspects always help keep it moving! Mr Jaiswal is:

…currently reading for his DPhil (PhD) in Business Education from New College, University of Oxford researching on curricular and pedagogical innovation in business schools. He lives in Oxford, UK…

So it is no surprise that the book is heavy on words that could be simplified. One can still understand that considering that the book talks about a struggle and hopes to inspire people never to give up. As a reader, I have never been a fan of the self-improvement or motivational genre. I love fables, though. And this is where the book enters murky waters. Bear with me.

As a fable, the book is set in a faraway world where one has to assume everything and anything is possible. Everything is personified and has a form and function. What is still not clear to me, though, is what time the book is set it. There are buses and there are kings, there are roads and radios and also caravans and fortune-tellers. And this mish-mash of the time period doesn’t allow me to form a picture of the setting or the characters.

As a motivational book, it offers me little. The surroundings in which the characters normally roam remind of dark, damp places that don’t always inspire much happiness. And therefore, I cannot be convinced that there could be any good that could come here. Interestingly, that sets the tone for a positive finish with a flourish. Unfortunately, it never comes.

Normally, when reading any book — especially fiction — one can create a setting in their own heads. What the protagonists’ home looks like, what he may look like and what he will do in a situation. But here, characters are moving in and out too quick without having made a lasting impact.

The story that Mr Jaiswal attempts is an honest one with a simple moral — don’t give up. I do feel, however, that at times, the book  has meandered on for too long without direction. There seems to be an incessant need to force-fit big quotations and emphatic statements by some know-all characters whose source of experience or knowledge is unknown. That makes it hard to take their word!

Oh, and the lowest point has to the the literal translation of jungle mein mor nacha, kisi ne na dekha. That line anyways reminds me of Johny Walker (from Madhumati) and the classic song!

To be fair, this is his first attempt at writing and I have never written a book. I shouldn’t be as harsh since the book has come to me free of cost. While the language of the book does offer great joy at times, the story does tend to meander. Some tighter editing may have helped.

For those who are looking for inspiration and often turn to books, this is worth a read. It hits bookstores today. Price, unknown!

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