‘Boomtown’ is the first novel of Aditya Mukherjee. Its cover, illustrated by Jezreel Nathan, is the perfect foil to the story – of an idea born in the bylanes of Old Delhi, taking its root from recipes zealously guarded and faithfully adhered to for years, and the journey which leads to its fruition in the towering high rises which make up Gurgaon.
Boomtown is basically the story of JJ, or Jacob James, coming from a rich, Malayali Christian family filled with eccentric uncles and cousins. A chance meeting with Jaaved, heir to his grandfather’s legendary cooking skills and restaurant, but filled with the desire to invent his own versions of ancient recipes, sees JJ set off to find the right people to set off on his venture with. He finds his old friends – Roy, a disgruntled laid off engineer, and Sheetal, a single mom working in the hotel industry, and thus begins the adventure, which takes the friends, and us, on an adventurous journey leading into the heart of the city, and encountering the people who make it what it is.
For a first novel, the story as well as the writing is remarkably good. The characters are mostly well sketched, and the situations and people are realistic. Descriptions of Old Delhi as well as Gurgaon fit in really well, as do the stories of cheating and threatening which seem to rule the real estate industry. Sheetal’s experiences with the sexist agents is something sure to strike a chord with most female readers, and even the fraudulent broker threatening to kill Jaaved one moment and crying on his father’s shoulder the next must bring a smile to most faces.
If I have any complaints, it is that the story is too predictable. Aditya Mukherjee, in his acknowledgements, writes that the story was written in his second year at IIM Bangalore, and that is what it is – a story written by a college goer, wondering about life as it is going to turn out. In an age where most boys turn to an engineering degree for either satisfying their parents or not knowing what else to do, the question of what one wants to do with one’s life is something that becomes evident only when one is in college, and thinking which job to take up. This is especially evident in the story, both in the case of JJ and Roy. JJ, searching for the right thing to do, and Roy, wondering which way to turn, now that he is out of a job, both trying to bring some meaning into their lives.
The book has enough twists and turns and interesting encounters to keep one hooked to the end, and it is certainly a good read.
This book was sent to me for review by Rupa Publications