The Journey of Om by Chandru Bhojwani

I might as well admit it – writing this review is going to be tough. If you’ve read some of my reviews before, you know I make it difficult for myself to like books by Indian authors. (You see how I turned it to blame myself? Did you?) However, if I’m reviewing a book that’s the author’s first publication ever, I can’t help but feel a little kinder towards the writing.

Ok, so, The Journey of Om is Chandru Bhojwani’s first book. It’s the story of Om, who is betrayed by his girlfriend, who he thought was the love of his life. While he drowns himself in the sorrow and attempts to break out of the self-destructive circle, Om comes closer to his friends Mona and Arun, who have trouble in their own love-lives. That, in a nutshell, is the story. Sounds pleasingly simple doesn’t it? Here’s where I begin to have problems with the whole idea of “good idea, bad execution.” And I won’t blame the writer in this instance. I think Om is a generally well-written book (more on that later), but the book is 300 pages long, and goes off-track more than once, which can get so annoying! I have a bone to pick with editors here. What the hell are they doing when there’s a random chapter on a ghost story? Were they out for a cigarette when Om has a border-line erotica dream sequence on a long-distance flight? What were they thinking when they decided to add 3 or 4 of Om’s magazine articles in the book? I’m not sure how any of these are supposed to add to the reading experience. It surely does not add to the wealth of the book; it’s just a distraction. The narrative is disjointed in voice, linearity, and style. The chapters move from first person to third person omniscient at random places. It moves between time for no reason. It’s a mix of purple prose (look at erotic dream sequence mentioned above), epistolary, journalistic, and a personal narrative. Usually, I love keeping up with a complicated novel, but here we have a delightfully simple story of friendship and heartbreak and recovering, which is needlessly made convoluted and mind-boggling. If I was Bhojwani, I’d have a talk with my editors!

Now for something completely different.

I think Bhojwani’s writing style can be akin to what a friend would write. I mean that both in a good and bad way. Let’s start with the bad part. How often have you read something by your friend and told them it’s good just because you didn’t want to hurt their feelings? With Bhojwani’s writing, there’s a certain amount of that familiarity. It’s not particularly ground-breaking. But on the other hand, there’s something nice about that same aspect of his writing. It’s like reading the story your best-friend might have written. You identify with the problems of these young characters. You know you’ve been through a similar break-up, you’ve experienced those low of lows. When you see Om trying to overcome his heartbreak with his girlfriend, we know exactly what he’s going through. When you read about his conversations with this best friends who are trying to help him get out of it, you’re reminded of similar late night conversations with your own best friends. It’s nice to see someone address those issues and talk about today’s generation of people and their real-life problems.

At the end of the day, I’ll repeat what I’ve said earlier. I think at the core of Om is a simple, heartening story. However, the book and the author have been done a great disservice by the editors. If the book was sharply edited, it’d be a much more seamless read.

Update: It’s been a couple of days since I posted this review, and I’ve already had two random comments that just praise this book and in no particular way respond to my post. I’m going to leave them like that. Let’s see how many I get 🙂

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2 Responses to The Journey of Om by Chandru Bhojwani

  1. Amit Butani says:

    Chandru Bhojwani’s debut novel is well written, witty, charming & thoroughly enjoyable.

    Although the main plot of the novel is focused on the main character Om, it is the difficulties facing his closest friends that really adds substance to this novel. At first glance, it seems like another story of love lost and heart break; however there is more to the story than that.

    The interaction between Om and his friends is very entertaining and the author has done well to keep the book moving along despite the trials and tribulations facing a number of the characters. The settings are well described and easy for any reader to imagine themselves as part of the scene.

    The Journey of Om, while at times tragic, is a captivating novel. The author does a wonderful job of mixing tragedy with wit & humour.

  2. Faraaz Kazi says:

    The Journey of Om by Chandru Bhojwani is a pacifying read with a somewhat alluring prose. The author’s style of writing is very different from what an Indian reader is generally accustomed to-First person, Omniescent POV, Articles, Flashbacks, et al. Sometimes it is difficult to trace the continuity of the plot in a new chapter as the author keeps switching tracks but reading a few lines soon clears your dilemma. The messages conveyed so subtly are actually things that we were always aware of but never gave it a second thought. The protagonist’s struggle and his loyalities with his friends manage to make you keep the page turning and sometimes the analogies pull you off and take you to a completely different world. The open ended climax scene is a brave attempt and the reader ponders over hoping that the story would end as he had desired. The short articles in the middle are strangely honest and humorous and display Bhojwani’s perfect journalistic acumen. This one’s going to dazzle my bookshelf for quite sometime and is a must read for people who have loved or lost or maybe both. I give it a handsome 4/5.

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