Serious Men, by Manu Joseph, is the winner of the Hindu fiction award for 2010 and that was the main reason for me to buy that book and give it a read.
And it turned out to be a classic. The writer has done a fantastic job in portraying the rise and fall of men through his vived characters which are woven beautifully in a deep and complex plot. The author has done a fantastic job as far as detail is concerned, whether in his description of the "Chawl life " of Bombay or in the portrayal of a thirty year woman falling in love with a near to retirement institute director.
The book attempts to explore the feelings of love, lust, envy, success and hatred and the characters have all shades of people out on the streets. The contempt towards Brahmins by the Dalit Ayyan Mani is one of the major themes the story seems to carry, how a Dalit views the world, ruled and controlled by the high class Brahmins and their white creamy women. The fascination for admiration and success has been beautifully portrayed by his ten year old son, Adi, who bluffs the whole world by faking to be a genius, by saying things like, " I can recite 1000 prime numbers, I find them interesting"
The author has made a brave attempt in portraying love and betrayal through the characters of Opurna and Arvind, and to his credit, the steamy romance between them is one of the high points of the story. Women are described from the viewpoint of desperate men or men who do not have time for women, and hence the book is heavily ladden with cheap thoughts of men fantasising about women, their dresses and so on. The way in which he describes the obstacle a newly wed couple faces in a Bombay Chawl to make love is both hilarious and brutally raw. A ten old year old son waking up in the middle of the night and asking his parents that what they are doing, he is not allowed to do with the girls of the Chawl of his agegroup, is so innocent, yet so sarcastic, I could not help laughing.
Serious Men is an engrossing read, provided it is read with the mindset of the characters it seeks to offer. The book is written in an easy and lucid manner and provides a fascinating experience of human emotions through it's plot and characters. I would recomment it for those who love complex personalities and those who can refrain from judging persons as good or bad, right or wrong.