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October 17, 2012

Book Review - 96 : The Householder




Author : Amitabha Bagchi
Publisher : Fourth Estate

I must admit i was not a big fan of the writer's debut novel, 'Above Average'. I thought it was a book which was true to its title. But in his next book, the writer explores the dark underbelly of power, greed and corruption in Delhi. It has delicate touches of humour and sensitivity which is rare to find in the India based fiction writing these days.

The novel incorporates two worlds — New Delhi’s babu-dom and the flashy gen-next culture of Gurgaon’s call centres. He takes us into the labyrinth of bureaucracy to meet Naresh Kumar, PA to Shri Asthana, IAS. Although he failed to make the grade as an IAS officer, Naresh learnt early in life how to negotiate the path to success — from upping the dowry amount set by his father to securing his first bribe. Naresh’s moral justification is that he is a householder, a man whose primary duty is to provide for his family.

Naresh’s life progresses satisfactorily until a series of calamities occur. A complaint on a deal — which helped Naresh pay for the catering and the tent-wallah at his daughter’s wedding — leads to a departmental inquiry that results in Naresh being suspended. His daughter Seema’s marriage flounders because she has not borne the obligatory child despite IVF treatments. His son Praveen, who works in a call centre, gets implicated in a murder and runs off to Manali. And moreover, he is attracted to a widow colleague Pinki, who has marriage plans of her own. The Householder is about how Naresh charts his journey through these turbulent waters. 


There are scenes which stay with you - like the one where the mother and the daughter in a casual dining table conversation discuss about men's approach towards sex or the one where Naresh is fired.  The decaying moral fiber of the society and families, in general always loom around in the background and gives us a surprising, yet disturbing overview of each of us as individuals.

The writing is taut in most cases and even though the book does get slow at times, but then picks up pace once more toward the final leg. Amitabha writes about a world where money rules and nothing can be done without it – he presents the dilemma of a common man – of morals, of the metaphoric good and evil and the choices we make.


I am going with 4/5 for Amitabha Bachi's 'The Householder'. It is slow at times, but in the end it is an extremely rewarding read. It promises to break new grounds and in make sure, it achieves that with some solid storytelling. Don't miss it.

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