Title: Back Seat
Author: Aditya Kripalani
About the story: A young girl, Asawari, loses her father in an accident during Ganapati Visarjan and then a few years later her first love, Aslam, is killed in a fight in Mumbai. Sold into the sex trade, she becomes the star performer at Athithi Dance Bar. Asawari as Nikita, grows up into a fiery, on the face, ever-ready-for-a-battle woman whose cherished dream is to open a Konkani cuisine restaurant in Mumbai.
A teenage boy from Bihar, after witnessing domestic abuse daily in his house, one day decides to act and save his mother from his sadistic father. But in the scuffle, both his father and mother die, leaving him an orphan. Vijay flees away to Mumbai, the city of dreams, and is employed as a driver to a rich, spoilt, brat Shashank. His job is to drive Shashank around at night to the various discos, prostitute houses and hotels and sometimes when Shashank is too stoned or drunk, he has to haul him away to his house.
Shashank, the only son of a famous film producer, craves for his father’s attention, his love and his approval. But Shashank has everything in his life except what he really yearns for. In a desperate attempt to escape from reality he turns to drugs and booze. Enchanted by Nikita’s charms, he proposes a one-month deal to her, during which she has to be his keep.
The story of Back Seat is all about how the lives of these three people from different backgrounds fuse together in a ride of their life. Providing a perfect milieu to the whole drama is Mumbai. Everything about Mumbai is embodied in the book, right from the lives of Mumbaikars, the famous buildings, the fashion streets, the spirit of Mumbai, the accent and food style of people of Mumbai, everything about Mumbai shines bright in the book.
Review: I have read few books based on Mumbai city, but Adtiya Kripalani has beautifully captured the essence of the city. The characters are well portrayed but I did end up wishing that the dynamics of relationship between the three main protagonists in the book-Nikita, Vijay and Shashank had been more detailed.
When Vijay and Nikita, turn from strangers to friends to lovers, somehow the whole transition seemed abrupt. The language of the book is as colorful as the lives of Mumbaikars, with a whole lot of MC’s and BC’s thrown liberally throughout the book. Despite the fact that I squirmed in the initial pages, it did give a raucous feel to the plot.
While I could still digest the profanities in the book, what left me disappointed was the ending, which was brusque, as if the author was in a real hurry to finish off the book. The last four or five pages had too many implausible twists and turns that left the plot kind of lynched.
Verdict: I would suggest this book only if you love Mumbai and reading a story heavily interspersed with references to the city and a gamut of profanities.