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After an entire month of poetry and months of working on my debut novel, I’m reading again, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels. Abdullah Khan is the author who wrote a blurb for my debut novel, ‘Coming Home’. When the publisher approached him, he was kind enough to agree to read the novel and provide a blurb (if he liked the story, which fortunately he did). Reading his opinion on my novel was what made me want to read his book. But, that doesn’t mean this review is biased in any way.
The story revolved around Arif Khan, a middle-class boy and son of sub-inspector in Patna. Amidst family’s expectations and his own hardwork to crack the civil services exam, Arif meets the beautiful Sumitra, a married woman a mother of two, and falls in love with her. But is it love or just another infatuation? Would Arif be able become an IAS Officer? Or does fate has something else in store for him and his family?
About Patna Blues
The story is slow at the start but builds up the tempo before the halfway mark, keeping you on edge until the end. The highlight of the story for me was Muslim customs, the manner of life amongst lower middle-class families, the importance accorded to joining the civil services in Patna, Bihar (a state in India) and the Hindu-Muslim clashes in the late nineties that threatened the fabric of India. The book provides a fair and unbiased peek into the manner in which the police force works- the corruption involved, some good officers because of whom the system functions, and the lack of a financially rewarding system for those in the lower rungs of the police force.
Arif, the protagonist, is a boy in his late twenties and is working towards cracking the Indian Administrative Services Examination. His father, a sub-inspector, does not have the financial means to enrol Arif in extra coaching classes, which leaves Arif struggling to pass the examination. The family of two sons, three daughters, parents and a grandmother live in the meagre accommodation provided to policemen of Arif’s father’s rank. When Arif’s father is asked to take voluntary retirement by a senior official looking for payback, the family finds it hard to make two ends meet. Amidst all of the struggles of the family are Arif’s growing feelings towards a married Hindu woman frustrated me as a reader as it distracted Arif from his goal of becoming an IAS officer. It pained me to see that he isn’t able to control his emotions even when he sees his father working hard to keep the family moving. But that is the heart – it sees nothing when it is in love. Abdullah Khan does a good job of bringing out the internal battle one faces when one is aware of what the right thing to do is and is yet, unable to give up the wrong thing.
I believe the book is going to be made into a web series, and I understand why- it has drama, love, action, tension and basically everything that would keep the audience on edge and make for a perfect series.
What did I like about the book?
The highlighting of the situation in India during the late nineties during the Hindu-Muslim clashes when terrorist attacks meant police picking up innocent Muslim youth and charging them for an offence they did not commit so as to close the case. It’s similar to how blacks were and are wrongly convicted in the US for crimes. I found the culture of the Muslims in Patna, the disappointment that comes with those unable to crack the IAS exams, and their inability to do anything thereafter as too much time has been wasted running behind a dream, interesting. The relationship between the grandmother and the boys was endearing. All in all, the many twists in the story kept me hooked until the end.
What I would like to see?
Where the younger brother disappeared for 4 or 6 years, and why Sumitra (the woman Arif loved and who seems to love him back) was the way she was as she has a good husband and seems happy with her life. Perhaps, the author will come back with a sequel to explain this.
The book is available on Amazon and can be purchased here. Patna Blues is available for free for all KUL subscribers.
My debut novel, ‘Coming Home’ was released on 24th March 2023
For the Kindle and paperback edition of the book, please click here. The book is available in most countries.
You can get your copy of the paperback edition in India by clicking here.
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