I don’t remember, the last time I read a book in Hindi. For the last many years I have been reading books primarily in English. I know some of the reasons. The bookstores I buy books from have a limited range of books in Hindi. Moreover, most of them are old books, or English authors work translated into English. Additionally, there is a lack of contemporary writers, and the last one may not agree with.
So, when my friend Naveen Choudhary sent me his debut novel ‘JANTA STORES’, I started reading it with not much expectation. The basic framework of College politics, election and Politicians manipulating the student leaders for their benefit is nothing new. I doubted if it would give me the same thrill? Will it be a page-turner I like?
After reading the book, I can say; there is a different flavour of reading good books in your language.
Naveen Choudhary has chosen to weave a strong story and strategically based it in Jaipur University. Not surprising, as Naveen Choudhary actively participated in student politics of Rajasthan University and contested election for Rajasthan University Student Union in 1998 on the panel of ABVP.
The era of the late nineties is captured beautifully. You read and see the college campus, the open jeep, the strong men, the hostel where the warden is unable to remove a rusticated student. You feel the politicians and along with betrayals and fleeting loyalty which is beautifully captured.
The fluid flow of narrative enhances the total impact.
Many of the incidents are inspired by real-life events. I always held that an AAPBEETHI (self-experienced) makes for real good narrative as the author remains close to them.
The language makes a difference.
‘Janta Store’ is an easy read. Day-to-day colloquial Hindi is used, and that makes it a better read. There are traces of writing style that seems to have a stamp of well-known Hindi authors. I must refrain from naming these respected legendary authors, as I may not be qualified to do so. However, I must say without taking the credit away from Naveen that there are traces of Dharmavir Bharti, Premchand, Panishwar Nathu ‘Renu’ and even Shivani style of storytelling.
In ‘Janta Store’, characters have flavours of various real-time politics. I agree with Naveen when he says in one of his interviews if you read this in any other state (than Rajasthan) you will still find it relevant and smell the scent of your state politics.
The college politics, the uprising of a new leader, exploitation of issues, the divided student community on caste and regionalism, police and its misuse all form part of this story. In this volatile political mixture, Naveen does not forget to bring in romance, love triangle and sex, an integral part of college life.
There is that complex intertwining of college and the state level politics. When you read it and take the journey through the eye of Rajvendra and Mayur (two characters), you feel nothing has changed in decades. College politics is the same. The new student leadership seems to follow the age-old track of aligning with political parties and willingly getting exploited.
It is neither a commentary on student politics nor loaded with lessons in morality.
Towards the end, one feels that the author in addition to his own experiences has heavily borrowed from incidences across the nation and transplanted them to Jaipur University. It is the only area in ‘Janta Store’, where the reader attention and interest tends slackens. However, Naveen immediately gets you back on the track without losing pages.
Overall, thanks Naveen for this journey and getting me to read the Novel in my language. If, you do want to read a good novel in Hindi, pick up ‘Janta Store’ and go deep down the crazy vortex of student’s politics.