Mannu Rikshewala by Tuhin explores the grim realities of the society of the urban life through three best characters: Ankita, Sameer, and Mannu. The book delves into various themes, like equivocal voice of love, the urge to find out the purpose of life, hidden desires of extremely poor people. Though Ankita and Sameer fill most part of the book, Mannu is the central character of the novel. The kind of conviction portrayed through this struggling character Mannu is best of class.
The story is staged against the current time Delhi. Mannu is a poor young man who cycles a Riksha for sustenance. He looks older than his age; he is tenth pass and knows writing and reading, all these aspects make him a bit different than other cycle Rikshewalas. Like many other poor, he too has a sad story of his past where he was forced to quit school to work in order to support his family and save money for his sister’s marriage. He has some plans about life but circumstances keep his hands tied.
Ankita works in an NGO to teach poor children. Her boyfriend Sameer is a man from the corporate world. They like each other but still their love story has not seen that stage, where they could go intimate or trust one another blindly. They share mutual understanding. One fine day, in frenzied hurry she forgets her diary on Mannu’s Riksha. Mannu goes through her diary and comes to know about her past life as well as present-day trivial issues. Next day when he returns the diary to Ankita, he feels a strange bonding towards her. She expresses her gratitude and then gets inside a cab.
The cab driver kidnaps her and heads for a farmhouse at a remote place, in Haryana. The gang that resides in the farmhouse has raped and killed many girls from the city. The same is going to be the fate of Ankita. She tries hard to get out of the cab but to no avail, also the mobile coverage is patchy. On the other hand, when Mannu sees her getting inside the cab, he senses something wrong. He was aware of that cab driver’s criminal background that used to pick prostitutes from around a known Paan shop. On a wild instinct, Mannu begins chasing the cab. It is the height of madness for that girl that he chased down almost 90 kilometers. With some brain and bravado, he initially manages to save the girl from them but not for a long time. Ankita and Mannu runs away in the same cab in which she had been brought, but their luck peters out when the petrol dries up and with a draining mobile battery they manage to talk to Sameer only for a few minutes. Taking the clues from their phone call, Sameer informs the police to search them.
They are saved. After the incident, Ankita has to fight another fight: to come out of that shock. Every time she remembers the incident, the innocent face of Mannu appears before her eyes. But she could never decide what her true calling is: whether she loves that Rikshewala or Sameer. In the end she gifts a diary and a note of thank you to Mannu. Saving that girl is like an achievement for Mannu. He did what he actually used to hear from the stories of his uncle. Mannu knew that despite being a Rikshewala, he was a hero, an extraordinary man somewhere deep inside him.
The novel is a light read. The author has put in good efforts to make it as much as riveting possible, especially with the kidnapping and running away scenes. It could have been more dramatic.