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March 25, 2015

Book Review: The Patna Manual of Style

Text by Nittal Chandarana

Who can resist a brash book? Here’s what you need to know about Siddharth Chowdhury’s The Patna Manual of Style

The Read The Patna Manual of Style
Author Siddharth Chowdhury
Publisher Aleph Book Company

Unravelling Protagonist Hriday Thakur is a brat. The unapologetic, cocky, libidinous kind. One is subjected to snippets of his life which are shocking but never cease to entertain. Hriday wants to be be a writer, in the process of which (but not because of) he meets a variety of interesting people who become a part of his stories. His narrative is also laced with what else, women. Every red-blooded Indian male must have a few women he can brag about — those who conquered his heart, those whom he conquered, and the wife. The story is told in nine parts, encounters really, which impart much information about Thakur’s where, what and how. Each part could very well be a short story by itself, something that the author may have intended. The story also shifts narratives but each narrator seems to have a keen gravitational pull to Hriday and somehow, aid in understanding him better. The writing screams casual breezy but there are those bits which tug at the heartstrings. At 142 pages, The Patna Manual of Style is too short a read. Like with every good thing you must abstain from but don’t, you are left wanting more.

Him and her Hriday Thakur’s story may well be of any other colourful Patna-immigrant-settled-in-Delhi man’s, but the difference is that this story is told. With all sorts of masala and dollops of drama (that we love), you are completely soaked into this ‘charming, well-mannered’ boy-man’s story till you reach the end. His wife, Chitra, manages to make an impact. An indignant woman from his beloved Patna trying and succeeding in being a part of his better-explored world. One just knows that she’s a buri ladki and can’t help but love her for it. Of course, the author brushes her character in vulnerability because a woman must always be a tad vulnerable, but we excuse him that.

What we loved For starters, the cover illustration by Dyuti Mittal. That’s what prompted us to pick up it up in the first place (so much for don’t judge a book by its cover). And later, the unabashed story, the brave narration and the over-the-top characters. It is akin to reading a naughty porno — you wouldn’t want to be caught dead with the book in your hands and yet can’t quieten the overeager murmur of ‘just one more page’ that rhythmically plays in your head.

Maybe not Don’t pick it up if you can’t deal with crass hindi and not-so-clean humour. The book has ample of both.

Quotable Quotes So many. Some are profound statements while others made us beam at the words. Here are some of our favourites.

“After a dose of Patna Large all the burden of the world felt as light as a raindrop.”

“I want the man who, if he can’t write like Auden, has at least read all of Auden.”

“I like standing in the kitchen on Sunday mornings like this, as the weak February sun sneaks in bleary eyed through the window and the flat is still drowsy with love, and thinking, ‘here, right here, is the centre of my universe.”

Read it because You have a devilish mind and can’t help but enjoy edgy literature. In this, it will not disappoint.

Q&A with author Siddharth Chowdhury

1. Tell us a little about your foray into writing.
“I have been writing fiction seriously from the time I turned 18 and joined Delhi University in 1993.”

2. What genre would your books fit into? What’s the one genre you want to try and one that you would never touch?
“I am primarily a writer of love stories. I would love to write a Western sometime. Save the town, kiss the girl and ride into the sunset. The ‘great Indian novel’ is something perhaps I would never write.”

3. In The Patna Manual of Style, were the 9 parts written as standalone stories or with a fiction novel in mind?
“Standalone and written with a novel in mind. Both.”

4. Why does the Patna man have an edge over any other man from the country?
“Because against all odds and better judgement he remains a romantic at heart all his life.”

5. Are any characters inspired by real life? To what extent?
“Some, say about 29 percent.”

6. What happens in Hriday’s life post these 142 pages?
“For that we will have to wait till c.2020.”

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