The Great Indian Bust by Rishabh Bhatnagar is a coming of age fiction, with traces of autobiographical notes in it. The novel is completely fictitious in its narrative, and with the plot and settings, but still as a reader one can make out that the author has a life that is evident all throughout the storyline.
The author has brilliantly provided preface to every backdrop, be it Delhi NCR, or Mumbai, or some other place. This worked fine as while reading one does not feel lost in the rigmaroles of the story. This novel is a kind of compound work – no specific them – but still a lot has been covered and seemed converging to one point. And that point is the protagonist Sidharth’s life. He is the center of all that is going in the story.
The novel kicks off with the story of his grandfather and his grandmother. Later, it gets near the lives of his father and mother, and their collective struggle to raise their children. So, basically this is a story of a family and a boy. As you read, you will find both growing and passing through the tests of time. However, much has been focused around Sidharth’s life. From the early stages of life till he passed 12th class – a lot of life events and mischiefs and tussles have been covered.
If you want to understand the core nature of the protagonist, well you may conclude that he is everything but banal. Since his early days, he is into the habit of vagrancy and carrying out normal to extraordinary mischiefs, like bunking classes, not getting into serious study, lack of will for a career, group fighting, and so on.
Somehow the protagonist has other inclinations in his life over mundane things. Through his reluctance, we see that the educational system of India is flawed, for instance, his father wants him to be an engineer, but he is lost for some other things. This novel takes us through the functional arteries of a struggling middle-class family, how women have to fight to sustain with their children, mothers are brave and more caring towards children, expectations from children, parental pressure on students and how they reciprocate it.
Much of the time in the story is shown of school premises, the author, at many places, takes a dig on his teachers or classes, but it adds great guffaws of humour, something like that:
The teacher would start the lesson off by explaining something simple and mundane, such as how hard the apple that fell on Mr. Newton’s head must have hurt him, only to escalate quickly and progressively, and within the hour I would be dealing with elaborate hyperbolic graphs and vector diagrams that made absolutely no sense at all.
At particular, the author has portrayed a great school life of the protagonist. There are many instances which will remind readers of their school-life misadventures. The portrayal of a peculiar school life is something charming about this novel.
Rishab has good narration style and his usage of lucid language make this book full of riveting instances. The novel is a great read for young readers, teenagers, even for parents, and those who wish to see what the current generation (millennial) of students doing at school.