August 15, 2021
Raghav is an ordinary seven-year-old growing up on the ‘good’ side of Colaba in Bombay. His is a safe, protected world and he is kept well away from the ‘other’, darker side of Colaba, which nevertheless, holds a deep fascination for him with its colorful, busy alleys bustling with activity, people and mystery – the ‘real’ world as far he is concerned.
But life has other plans and Raghav’s entire world comes crashing down one day. In the space of a few crucial hours, his childish innocence is ripped away brutally, and he also loses the one person who may have made his world right again – his mother. That fateful day alters the course of his life and the ‘other’ side is the only place he can escape his now truly miserable home life and his bitter father who he resents more and more each day. He never tells even his closest friends about the horrific abuse he suffered the day his mother died, the day a fierce, burning anger took root in his very soul.
Now, 20 years later, all his peers and friends are settling down into jobs and the business of growing up. But Raghav is still trapped between his now suffocating relationship with his father, his own inability to find a job and make a life for himself and the painful memories of his childhood ordeal that still haunt him. And this is when he meets Rani one day, an orphan beggar girl who knows life on the streets of Mumbai, but not in the way Raghav does. He wants to ‘save’ Rani from the beggar mafia and give her a chance at a better life. His strong need to stand up for something, to truly help someone is fueled by the recent Nirbhaya gangrape case in New Delhi, that evokes painful memories of his own past trauma.
Set in Bombay in 1992 and Mumbai in 2012, and inspired by true events, Diary of an Angry Young Man is a coming-of-age urban drama that explores the complex layers of humanity. And the city that engenders them.
I grew up in a housing society in Mumbai (then Bombay) that overlooked a slum colony, beyond which lay a notorious area which I refer to as the ‘other’ side in this book. The ‘other’ side held a deep fascination for me with its colorful, busy alleys bustling with activity, people and mystery.
Most of the domestic help at our building complex lived in the adjacent slums. During my growing up years, I played cricket and other sports with their kids in our society compound. On a few evenings, I wandered to the ‘other’ side with them and discovered a whole new world of notoriety, warmth and color.
There was one particular young man in that area that had become a figure of childhood folklore of sorts and we knew him only by his nickname. He had achieved a high level of recognition, given the issues he stood up for and the scraps he got embroiled in. I saw him just once and identified him instantly from his notorious group as he stood with an air of confidence outside that modest eatery, where he hung out with his peeps every evening. My only recollection of him was that he had a chiseled face, which bore a disturbed expression, and that he looked angry. Even though he didn’t live in the area and was educated, his fierce expression and restless body language somehow made him fit right into the unsettling character of the ‘other’ side.
I visited the area years later, and was surprised to learn about how life had completely turned around for him and his current vocation. His unique journey revealed him to be an unreasonable and fearless man, and I admired his resilience and goodness of heart despite the cards that life had dealt him. I felt compelled to tell the surreal story of this angry young man.
The names and professions of the characters of the book have been changed to protect the identities of the real people who have been referenced for this story, as have the locations and timelines. Parts of the book are inspired by true events, the rest is fiction.
Diary of an Angry Young Man attempts to showcase the spirit of India’s youth and the humanity of society that we may or may not be oblivious to. It is a mirror of the times we live in, of the city that has brought me up.
The Diary of an Angry Young Man is a moving story, that is a reminder of how our childhood can affect our adult lives. How the actions of and interactions with others can influence our lives and can send us on a path of destruction. Raghav was lucky to make peace with his past despite his rough journey to get there. Bereaved and abused, Raghav stomped through his youth carrying his burden alone. He struggled to find a clear path in life until a coincidental encounter with his abuser gave Raghav the chance to take justice into his own hands. This release helped Rayhav feel stronger and clearer. He was able to see the world around him which led to a fortuitous encounter with a street child that steered Rayhav to find his true life calling.
I found Diary of an Angry Young Man to be an inspirational and enjoyable read which I give 4 stars.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.