A delightful novel about growing up in Shillong in the 1980s by the bestselling author of Bali and the Ocean of Milk and The Case of the Secretive SisterWhen fourteen-year-old Debojit Dutta meets the slightly older Clint Eastwood Lyngdoh in his maths tuition classes, he is wary of his cigarette-smoking, whisky-swilling ways. Besides, Debu has only recently escaped a bunch of local ruffians who wanted him to ‘go back home to Bangladesh’.But Debu is unable to resist being friends with Clint. For, in return for doing his maths homework, Clint introduces him to a completely new life: the heady charms of Kalsang, the Chinese restaurant forbidden by Debu’s mother; the revolutionary sounds of Pink Floyd; and most importantly, the coolest, prettiest girl in town—Audrey Pariat. Audrey loves maths and detective stories, just like Debu, and does not make him feel awkward or exotic. Together, the three of them look set to embark on many adventures. But when tensions between the Khasi and Bengali communities boil over, Shillong becomes a battlefield—old neighbours become outsiders and the limits of friendship are challenged.With crackling energy, Nilanjan P. Choudhury immerses us in the tumultuous lives of Debu, his friends and his family, and their attempts to find love and belonging. Written with uncommon warmth, humour and a delightful evocation of place, Shillong Times is an exhilarating coming-of-age story—showing us how friendship can eclipse the hardened enmities of adulthood.
Shillong times is a book that brings you nostalgic moments of life in 80s. The story is set in Shillong, yes that’s where it gets the name. Debojit is a Bengali teenager who along with his parents lives in Shillong.
The story starts with Debojit returning home from school on a lonely path where he encounters few guys from local tribe, khasis. This tribe is against any foreign community living in their area and there are few harsh exchanges between them and Debu. He manages to escape from them. He narrates the entire episode to his parents which is when his father lectures him about the ancestors and why they settled in Shillong.
Debu’s mother started advising him to study well and look for a great career outside Shillong and get away from there. She wants him to pursue IAS and wants him to take up necessary competitive exams inorder to achieve the same. She decides to make him join tutions taken by Professor Bose who is deemed to be extremely strict.
Debu gets to know Clint in one of Bose’s tution sessions. He takes Debu to the forbidden Chinese restaurant Kalsang , introduces him to Pink Floyd music and most important of all makes him meet Audrey Pariat. Clint says shes exactly like him – likes detective stories and maths. Debu takes an instant liking on her during their first meet.
Debu’s mom gets to know about his acquaintance with Clint and warns him of dangers since he’s a Khasi himself. She utters stories from past which sends shivers inside Debu. But inspite of all that he still wishes to continue being friends with Clint. Clint also saves Debu from punishments at school from a teacher. The teacher later reveals to Debu that Clint is not good company and its better he stays away from him. Though now the number of people who are against Clint is two, Debu still is not convinced to sacrifice his friendship.
As the story progresses the tension between Bengalis and Khasis boils over, which makes Shillong a battlefield.
The language is simple and lucid. The author has brought out the beauty of Shillong also known as Scotland of the east so well in narration.
The characterization is perfect. Debu’s mom is of the typical Indian parent who wants the child to concentrate on studies and take up competitive exams. She is very strict and at the same time concerned about him, very much indeed. The pace is just the right amount for the elements for friendship, love and tension.
Publisher:Speaking Tiger Publishing Private Limited (10 September 2018)
Writing and Presentation: 4/5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nilanjan P. Choudhury’s debut novel, a mythological thriller titled Bali and the Ocean of Milk, was a (very) brief bestseller. His subsequent writings include The Case of the Secretive Sister, a detective caper set in Bangalore, and The Square Root of a Sonnet, a pioneering play on the history and science of black holes; both of which received wide critical acclaim. He confesses to having studied at IIM Ahmedabad and IIT Kanpur, and hopes that this will not be held against him. He grew up in Shillong and now lives in Bangalore with his family. He can be reached at http://www.nilanjan.net.
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