The Patna Manual of Style Stories by Siddharth Chowdhury
The Patna Manual of Style Stories – I quite liked the title. It caught my attention for it spoke about a city that is not usually spoken in literary publications. At least not in the English ones. It then told me it has something to do with writing and bang on. The book is all about the world of writers, literature professors, wannabe authors and their stories and very uniquely a proofreader. In 9 distinct stories that keep crossing paths. The authors bring out his fictional avatar Hriday Thakur. And other characters too seem from the world around him.
Now, Patna is just like a nostalgic state in the book that profiles the Delhi of the 1990s. This was a time when Indian economy opened up and many people rushed to Delhi for employment. They stayed in small rented accommodations. Started sampling the metro life. And over time became a part of city’s fabric. Since I was a part of that wave, having landed in Delhi in 1995. I had quite a few friends who came from Bihar. I could relate so well to what the author portrayed. The Paharganj area, the CP, the films, the food and the dreams that Delhi gave to the eyes of that generation make for an interesting reading. Every community has a small but well-defined space for itself in a metropolitan city. And this book is all about Biharis or more specifically people from Patna in Delhi.
In The Patna Manual of Style Stories, the stories revolve around the novel that the protagonist is writing. The odd jobs that he takes up to keep himself afloat. The Bihari friends that he socializes with. The relationship he has with his ex-girlfriends and wife. And in the last story with a proofreader who leaves a legacy behind for him in the form of books.
It is rare that you get to read a proofreader’s perspectives on books and authors they work with. Who knows the world of books, the authors, and publishers better than a proofreader? Siddharth Chowdhury skillfully creates an environment that replicates the mental state of an author and how he sees things around him. The way he seeks out stories over some drinks, or the way he mingles with people, or the way he accepts that he has to work till he can live the tag of ‘being an author’.
Book cover quotes ‘Go to any party, in any country, on any moonlit terrace of the world, the best-dressed man is always from Patna’. Did you just think of Laloo Prasad Yadav or the rest of the Yadav clan – well you are not alone, but this line does catch you attention and you want to know more about what this author has to say? The language is engrossing and carries a certain rustic touch to it while being impeccable English all the time.
Read The Patna Manual of Style Stories, if the world of writers sounds interesting.