Book Review: On the Run with Fotikchand by Satyajit Ray

On the Run with Fotikchand by Satyajit Ray is a light adventurous novel set in Kolkata and the cities around it. The novel opens with a scene in a forest at dawn with a boy lying unconscious off the road and an accident-damaged car careered off the road in which are two dead men. The boy when becomes conscious knows nothing about himself, he has lost his memory following a car accident. He walks the road ahead but again lies off the road: his body bruised and his head swollen with an injury.

A truck driver takes him further and feeds him milk and fruits at a roadside dhaba and from there two gentlemen take him further in a car to a doctor in the city of Kharagpur, and to help the boy they decide to take him to the police station after the medication. On the other hand, the boy is varying of the police; hence, he sneaked out from the back door of the bathroom.

Somehow the boy reaches the railway station and accidently catches a Kolkata-bound train. In the train, a stranger takes him as a runaway from home and begins asking a set of questions. Contrastingly, the boy’s biggest problem is memory loss. He does not his name as well as other details like, his home address and relatives’ names, etc. Life has taken a tough stance on him. To avert the stranger’s attention, the boy recollects the name of a medical store before reaching the station and says his name is Fotikchand Pal.

The stranger introduces himself as Harun-al-Rashid. He is a talented juggler. A bonding is formed between the two and the boy tells his short story that follows after losing his memory. Harun takes him to his friend who runs a tea stall where the boy works as a waiter and in the evening he helps Harun with him his juggling acts. Harun lives in a slum area. One day when two villain-type men stares at the boy during a performance, Harun smells a rat. Harun wants him to help but the problem is that the boy does not know anything about his past life.

One rainy evening when they both are chased by the two same men, they catch up a taxi and run away. Amidst the traffic commotion and rainy chaos, the boy’s memory returns and then he explains everything about his family and address. However, it was already late and raining hard, thus Harun decides to take the boy to his home the following day.

Next day when the boy with Harun reach the home, his father, a big lawyer of the city, misbehaves with Harun and does not talk about the reward money he mentioned in the newspapers for finding the boy. The boy’s real name is Nikhil alias Bablu. Harun returns home and Bablu feels bad seeing his father behaving indecently with Harun.

Next day Bablu reaches the slum to find Harun but to no avail. He then runs to the railway station where he meets Harun who is going to Madras to join a circus. Bablu talks about staying with him but Harun scolds him for this vile thought and tells him to become educated since he comes from a good family unlike Harun.

Bablu talks about the reward money (5000 rupees) but Harun says that he was like a younger brother to him and a brother does not sell brother. Harun tells him the name of the circus and promises to come back to the city with the circus. As the trains chugs out, tears fills the eyes of Bablu.