Rustom and the Last Storyteller of Almora, by Gaurav Parab


I started reading Rustom and the Last Storyteller of Almora expecting it to be teeming with GP’s humour. I mean, after all, a guy who keeps it funny all the time must write a comedy. I honestly did not know what to expect from the characters or the story, except that I knew they would entertain. GP has given much more.

It’s about characters, yes. Real enough to make us want to catch up when they stride, run along when they surge through chapters of their lives, laugh when they find what they’re looking for, puzzle along with them, feel their burden when they are down. And still, with emotions that are strange enough to make us feel we can never be them, nor they, us. For how else can we immerse in tales of men, women, and babas, if not with a sense of wonder? Gaurav manages to tell a tale with characters that we all identify with in some ways, while remaining in their little worlds that perhaps we can never get close to.

It’s about plot. The format of a multitude of parallel tales running along to culminate in a grand finale may seem passe. Practically every work of popular fiction in the fantasy genre that seems to have taken over the press and the telly follow this format, with great success. This book does it too, but does not bore. Rustom and the ripples he creates in the little worlds he is connected to are curious, quick to develop, and manage to come together in the last few pages with just enough drama, avoiding spectacle. It took me a while to see that as the tale progressed, each chapter was not scrolling more than 4 or 5 pages, and kept the story flowing even while tracking across from the Himalayas to Nariman Point and Kothaluru, and back.

It’s about meaning. What stays with me after I read a good book are the little home truths about myself. About the people we are all surrounded with. It takes a writer who understands human nature to put a finger on what drives us and makes us think and do as we do – as parents, as children, as seekers, as finders, as friends, as onlookers, as wicked, as perhaps inhuman folk too. And this book is littered with home truths. About love, insecurity, grace, lunacy, and everything in between.

It’s about keeping it light, and heavy. Not easy to deal with a subject as morbid as suicide, and yet keep a reader atwitter and on tenterhooks as the tale unfolds. It’s Gaurav’s sense of the absurd in the most solemn moments, and the funny in adversity, that keeps this book upbeat in spite of the blurb on the back cover claiming a serious theme.

Indian fiction in English has been leaning towards to ponderous or the flippant. It’s nice to see a well written book in the middle of this ground. I’d definitely put Rustom and the Last Storyteller of Almora on the recommend list.

And GP, I hope the next one is on the assembly line.

You can order this book HERE.