Ajay Khullar's debut book The Nothing Man is wicked and wanton. You will love it
The headline of this review is slightly different from the title of the book Baru Mal wasted a life and a wife trying to write. But only slightly. The worst of what's in you or around can help you churn out the best you can offer to the world. If you are Baru (a bastard, the author's observation, not mine) then it will be The Best of What's Around.
Baru is a failed writer. He has done one book that nobody has read. And he has done one woman who has been done in by his vile. No, the vile was actually a ploy to destroy the woman he married so that he gets a plot for his next book. Sick? Read on.
"Over the next couple of months, even as I turned on the heat on the poor girl in the hope of salvaging my novel, it is difficult to say what exactly played on in her mind. What is known is that the girl began to suffer from depression. She turned into a wreck, nervous and otherwise. She stopped going to school, she stopped going to the club. She stopped going out anywhere at all." Things fall apart, and Baru and the wife go different ways. The Best of What's Around lies incomplete. Baru spends the "next fifteen years being a hero."
"I did my karma in the flood-ravaged plains of Bihar, in the jungles of Uttarakhand, on the diplomatic battlefield of Lahore. I bore me. Had I had any more sense and been less of a coward, I would have put a gun to my head and been done with it a long time back. But you never know, maybe someday, someone might do me a favour. Right now though, there was a battlefield to escape from. I lit a cigarette and sat back in a folding chair and surveyed the battlefield."
So Baru comes right back to Delhi, to where it all started, to the life of the ex-wife who has since married a respectable civil servant. To screw things up once more and finish his book. Does he succeed in his wicked (despicable?) plan? How does Minnie (the ex-wife) react? Pick The Nothing Man to find out. Khullar mentions Camus in his book. But while reading it I remembered lines from my favourite Beatles song: He's a real Nowhere man/Sitting in his Nowhere Land/Making all his Nowhere plans for nobody/Doesn't have a point of view/Knows not where he's going to, Isn't he a bit like you and me? You may not have screwed up your life for a book. But dig deep. You may just find a Baru Mal lurking somewhere.
The Nothing Man
Rupa & Co