Rishabh Bhatnagar’s novel The Great Indian Bust is a youth-oriented work that tries to portray the predicament of youths and children as they grow up in middle-class families and begin their lives with expectations, dreams and hopes before confronting the realities. Written in an autobiographical tone, the novel’s narrative is built in a first-person perspective and the protagonist is himself narrating his story. After reading it carefully to a few chapters, a reader can understand that the author is himself directly involved.
Rishabh’s novel is about casual alacrity of the children, excitement and zeal of the youths and seriousness of the very important relationship of parents and their children. He has maintained that tone of the novel most of the times except some instances where the protagonist’s overthinking and over-indulgence in the narrative makes it sound like someone is narrating his stories from the past, sitting in front.
The protagonist begins with the story of his grandfather. After the grandfather’s early demise, how the protagonist’s grandmother managed herself and her children has been depicted in realistic terms. Then the story comes a generation closer – protagonist’s uncle, father and mother. Then comes the protagonist himself (whose name occurs only rare times in the novel, can you find that out?), his birth, upbringing, schooling, early childhood and the important teen-years.
On a serious note, the novel underlines how the children of a particular era, the late 90s and early 20s, grew up. Rishabh Bhatnagar’s real-life narrative might connect with the readers even better as uses (at times) abuses in realistic manners as it used to be used by people and that’s how it has become the new normal in our lives today – Mirzapur, Sacred Games and Gangs of Wasseypur are the products.
In terms of themes and plot, The Great Indian Bust is a wide-open novel. It does not close down the focus on some particular theme. Only one thing goes constantly and that’s a focus on the protagonist’s life. The plot is, in simple words, tracking down the activities of the ‘hero’. His classroom, his examination failures, his efforts to make it better, his short-term love affair that ends in further frustration…
Now the very important question that everyone must be asking right now – is the novel worth reading? Is it interesting? The answer is – yes. This novel by Rishabh is worth reading. However, it might not be exciting and interesting all the times! It is interesting in patches. It is worth reading not because of exciting things you might read in someone else’s life but because of the fact that you can relive what transpired back in those days in Delhi’s Indrapuram and Chandigarh. You can also remind yourself of the early 20s school life and teen-years. And above all, you can cherish the fact that you are reading something by a young author that doesn’t include a few shades of ’50 Shades of Gray’.
I have rated the novel The Great Indian Bust with 3.7/5. The parts I liked are the real-life narrative, almost sincere autobiography and rekindling the memories of ‘old India’ I also lived once! You can get the Kindle copy from Amazon India:
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review by Ashish for Egoistic Readers