Author: Tushar Raheja
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I started reading this book with a sceptical mind, the seeds of doubt having been planted already. After all, Tushar Raheja, the author of "Anything for you, Ma'am" was one of the first movers of the ubiquitous young adult genre. But, he has jumped off that bandwagon to provide us with a whole new ball game (pun intended) – Romi & Gang.
The storyline is simple – a 13 year old boy named Romi, his motley group of friends and their joint passion for cricket which takes them through the highs and lows of their lives. This sport holds them, and the book, together. The novel is set against the backdrop of a fictional town, Mauji, which is in many aspects similar to Malgudi. From the loss of a brand new cricket ball, to being selected for the school cricket team, the novel is a narration of everyday happenings in an adolescent's life. The book pans years of Romi's life and is interspersed with quite a few cricket matches.
I have to concede, I've been more conscious of the scams in cricket than the sport itself. And this played against me in the initial few chapters of the book where the cricket references just went over my head. But as I proceeded towards the end, Tushar Raheja had me trapped in his setting of Mauji. I found myself silently praying for Romi to hit a century and volubly cheering for every boundary. Despite centring on the this unofficial national sport of India, the author has thrown in a few lessons for life as well – honesty, courage, determination to name a few. (Respect, Mr. Raheja !)
The illustrations add to the strengths of the book and are a refreshing addition (The last illustrated book I read was an Archie comic!!) Whereas the most obvious flaw in the novel would be the etching of the characters. The relevance of a few go misunderstood and the appearance of a few is confusing. While the quartet of Romi, Sukhi, Sunny and Golu come across clearly, other folks such as Kim (a role model/hero/legendary school cricketer ?!) and Mr. Chaddha (the school headmaster) are shrouded in a fog of incomprehension.
It is said that if one does not like the first ten pages of a book, then the book is not meant for them. would disagree in this case, as it took me more than ten pages, a few chapters even, to get absorbed into the story. The book encapsulates one in its simple, unworldly charm and leaves them yearning for their halcyon days again. Read, for the pure pleasure of undiluted cricket craze. If not cricket, read, for Romi and a journey into the natural seams of his life – like how I did.