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.
The Journey Of Om (Cedar books / Pustak Mahal) is available in all leading bookstores and from the publisher’s site.