Extraordinary fix

Sep 29, 2011, 10:30 IST | Sriraj Ray

Mughal Emperor Jahangir's gold coin is stolen from a museum. What happens next? Read on

Mughal Emperor Jahangir's gold coin is stolen from a museum. What happens next? Read on

The book is centred on an ordinary, otherwise honest working man, in an extraordinary problematic junction in his life. Harihar, who works in the Madras Museum steals a rare gold coin minted by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in order to fulfill an age old Hindu responsibility of a father, i.e. to marry off his daughter. He decides to pawn the artifact only temporarily, and to return it after the wedding but finds himself in a fix when he realizes that the coin has been melted and used by the pawnbroker.

Harihar Arora, the 'man of a thousand chances', is a second generation North Indian who lives in Chennai is engaged as the Assistant to the Curator at Madras Museum. His family consists of his wife Sarla and his daughter Meeta, whose wedding he arranges by pawning the gold coin. Harihar does not share a great relationship with his wife. The plot is made interesting by the fact that Ratan, the couple's son went missing four years back and they are constantly in anxiety to find him. This is Tulsi Badrinath's second literary venture and is written elegantly in simple prose style. The first being Meeting Lives in 2008.

The daily life of a middle class family has been clearly depicted in the novel and is central to the theme of the book. Harihar holds a grudge in his life towards his wife because he believes she does not keep the house in tact alone, along with herself. All she is concerned with is cooking and putting food on the table on time. He silently recalls days when she "would greet him shyly at the front door, dressed up in a fresh stretched saree, matching bangles ... yearning to go out somewhere with him"; she's past it and wanders their rented apartment with "hair twisted in a thin plate ... one of her crumpled house saris on".

The ordinariness of middle-class existence puts t beat the parts on the girl's wedding, which is widely covered in the novel. Badrinath does well to represent the entire ritualistic process of a 'big fat Indian wedding.' She describes in some detail the colossal effort in putting together a satisfying Indian wedding.

How does Harihar manage to redeem himself of the sin of stealing and also carry out a huge traditional responsibility of giving his daughter's hand in marriage, well, do read and find out. The book does also go on a philosophical tangent by exploring ideas of karma and free will. All in all, a present and light read.

A man of a thousand chances is published by Hanchette India and available in leading book stores

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