Here's my third book for the First Read Authors Pledge - Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra. It's actually pretty interesting to read new authors as everyone has touched upon a different genre. This book takes up the issues and problems faced by an autistic person but very well woven in a love story.
Balwant Srivastav, better known as Babloo, the main character of the book who lives near the railway tracks of Mumbai, has been suffering from autism and schizophrenia. He is elder son of the family but is neglected due to his mental status. He likes a girl Vandana who lives in their colony. She is the girl next door, who has big plans and ambitions in her life. She wants to move to US and make a big name for herself. She is the only one person in their colony who treats Raghu like a normal person.
The story revolves around the lives of these two main characters. Nobody in their society understands any of these two. The circumstances start forcing Vandana to give up her dreams and marry a guy her parents have chosen for her. A guy who is perfect from society's point of view but the most imperfect in terms of compatibility with Vandana. The same society forces Babloo to remain alone, confined in his own world, having only himself as a friend. Babloo, oblivious to the fact that Vandana is getting married to someone else, plans on telling her how he feels.
The circumstances also give rise to the origin of Rail Man, a real-life hero who helps people at the railway tracks from murderers, rapists and thieves. He does whatever Babloo wishes to do in his life - fight against the bad elements of society for justice.
About the author:
Rishi Vohra recently relocated back to Mumbai after completing a Green MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law, prior to which he had a successful career in the Indian Entertainment Industry. After featuring as a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW).
'Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai' is his first novel. He has promoted his debut book pretty well. Along with the Facebook page (link) for the book, he has also created a website - www.rishivohra.com for the same.
I think the book has very genuinely portrayed the problems of an autistic person by highlighting his feelings and his thoughts, which most of the stories dealing with autistic people are unable to do. The author has provided a deep analysis of all the characters of the story which helps us understand their behaviour, their actions and reactions to the situation.
The story deals with the average Indian middle class family, their lifestyle, the problems faced by a common man along with the things happening in the society. The way the author has struck a balance between the narration of situations in everyone's lives along with Babloo's narrations of his own feelings is perfect.
The story has a quite unexpected end - at least unexpected for me. Now, I cannot reveal the end to you, but there comes a point in Babloo's life where he is put in because he has no other option but it turns out he is happy there - not just satisfied but actually happy. Finally, he is among people who understands him and don't actually judge him. I really wanted the story to end there - with all my heart. Yet, the author went on and gave it a "perfect happy ending".
I would have been content to watch just Babloo happy - it wouldn't have been the "perfect happy ending", but it would have been worth it.
Apart from this, there's just one problem with the book - it was too descriptive. There are places when the author could have done with just a para or two instead of two pages which slows down the pace of the story. Other than that, the story is quite different from the rest.
I would give it a rating of 3.75 out of 5.