A book that comes with a personal handwritten note by the author is almost always a pleasure to read and review. In the present case, luckily, the content greatly complements the author's note too. Because the book definitely made me happy.
Wading through the bottomless ocean of contemporary Indian writers churning out books revolving around common subjects like recession, life in engineering colleges, love affairs and separation, one fine day I came across an email offering me to read Sid Bahri's debut novel, The Homing Pigeons. I won't deny it came as a breath of fresh air, for the very fact that its story is not borrowed or tried and tested. The characters are greatly flawed, yet the reader can relate to their thoughts and situations as they brave the biggest lows and commit mistakes to emerge wiser (or not).
The book follows the lives of Aditya and Radhika, separately at the outset so one can establish any relationship between the two initially. Aditya, along with his family, is a childhood victim of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Radhika is torn, from her very early years between two sets of parents both of which fail to completely provide her with everything a child is entitled to in her growing up years. With time, it is revealed that they're best friends from high school, with hidden feelings for each other ever since then. And yet, they were never really together. Now Aditya is jobless and in an unhappy, love-less marriage, somehow battling out the recession, while Radhika is marrying off her young stepdaughter from her dead, rich husband. Both are at a stage in life they had never imagined they would land up in. And in all of this, they reminisce about the time that was, when they were in love and kept bumping into each other over the years.
Saying anything more would be a spoiler, so I shall refrain from giving out more. It would however suffice to say that the book is the right combination of emotion and a reality take on the imperfection that is life nowadays. Both the characters start out as any other youngsters with a decent upbringing and certain dreams and aspirations. However, life plays out its games in such a way as to give a totally different turn to each of their dreams and land them in a soup. But the soup brings them back together, so there, a happy ending is in tow. No one's complaining.
The novel is very nicely written, with negligible grammatical errors (yeah, I do pay attention to those) and simple yet elegant language. I have always found the art of writing dialogue largely missing in contemporary Indian writers. Siddharth (or does he prefer Sid?) Bahri succeeds at it exceptionally, and thus gets extra brownie points from Yours Truly. The book is conveniently priced at 150 rupees and I'd say it is worthy of each penny. If that isn't convincing enough, I'd say buy it for the The Homing Pigeons Original Soundtrack CD that comes along with it. The songs have been created by Rishikesh - The Band, and have a beautiful feel to them. I especially loved the song 'Banjaara Dil Ka'. The songs are also available for free download here.
I would give the book 3.5 stars out of 5.