The Sacred Grove by Daman Singh
Monologues from the life of a 13-year-old boy, growing up with his parents in a small town in India, give you his complete worldview. The core is the thoughts and actions of the boy living his day-to-day life. Character actors are a pregnant mother, a busy father who happens to be the deputy collector of the town, a media savvy city dweller Masi, the teachers who give assignments that are sometimes interesting, friends who keep coming and going and a set of support staff that is integral to boys life. There are some situations that he gets stuck in like a communal violence.
A 13 year old can probably only react to the situations that he lands in and the people that are around him. He does not necessarily sit back and think about most of them either people or situations. All he is worried about is how to get what he wants and what he needs to do to get it, be it a iPhone or a partner to play cricket.
Written in first person, it is like hearing the voices going on in the head of this 13 year old. Unlike the promotional material of the book that says ‘Growing up in troubled time’, I did not see the impact of troubled times on the sole protagonist of the story. Though what it did was made me go back to my childhood, when I used to view everything from my angle only. The things mattered only till they impacted me, and things that did not interest me were not a part of my world. The book effectively deals with a child’s view of the adults and what they think about them and how they relate to them, be it their parents, relatives, teachers, visitors or the visited. Somewhere it conveys that children enjoy the adults who engage with them like a school friend’s grandmother who plays chess with the boy or the driver who helps him improve his cricket skills. People who do not spend quality time with them, or engage only when they need kids to act according to them disgust the kids irrespective of the relationship between them.
Language of the book is quite ordinary, I am not sure if this is a conscious choice that the author made as the English is probably not the first language of the protagonist. You would probably like the book if you have teenage kids or if you like going back to your teenage days. Otherwise, the book can get boring as there is no plot, no unusual happenings and any twists and turns that you usually expect in a fiction. If you like to celebrate ordinariness, the mundane lives in small town India where still there are not many opportunities to do too many things, then this book is for you.
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