Reading The Journey of Om is like a wonderful dinner with a long lost friend. First comes the anticipation – will the conversation be nice? Will we still recognize each other? Will we find something interesting to talk about? Will the food be enough to take our minds off the fact that this whole effort is futile?
But because you are with a trusted friend, your worries come to naught, your anxiety was senseless and they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. You are in the best possible company; you are placated when you find the friend you’ve known then is still the same person except with a few wonderful changes. And as the night progresses, the promise of a wonderful dinner turns into something memorable. And Chandru Bhojwani managed to do just that and more in this one-of-a-kind sojourn Indian style.
Admittedly, I had my reservations when I accepted Mr. Bhojwani’s offer to review his book (I actually call him “Chandru” in our emails as I was being a bit irreverent thinking that calling him by his first name would indicate that we are friendly at some level. And nice man as he is, he didn’t mind a bit. And yours truly was very much humbled to have a published and distinguished author act so nonchalantly. Talk about good breeding.) I was going through a rough patch when he asked me – what of the board exams plus the construction of our house and not to mention the daily grind of life. But I told myself, heck, why turn away from a very good opportunity? Of course, I was more than scared that I might not live up to Mr. Bhojwani’s (alright, Chandru’s…it’s fun being candid sometimes *wink*) expectations. I really hate disappointing the first author who asked me to review their book. But you know what? When I started reading, all my fears were laid to rest. I shouldn’t have worried so much. The ease with which the words flowed, the rhythm of every sentence has lulled my senses much like drinking a favorite wine – yes, I am in the company of a very good book and a prodigious writer.
Om is a twenty-five year-old columnist in a lifestyle magazine churning out topics from what turns off a regular Indian guy (The Desi Guy’s Kryptonite) – unshaven legs or armpits, body odor, etc. (yup, you couldn’t get weak any more than that) to knowing one of the most influential figures in a traditional Indian household – The Auntie. Our hero, who was a saint among all hopeless romantics, was on his way to woo his girlfriend Preeti (even her name sounds fabulous. Some people really have all the luck. :P) with a breakfast in bed and a champagne brunch for two. But instead of finding his lover eagerly anticipating their time together, Om received a nightmarish April Fool’s prank that some wise guy fedexed to him express.
Om got cheated on. He got heartbroken. But his story didn’t end when he was socked in the gut after seeing his beloved in the arms of a supposed friend and basketball buddy; it was a journey after all – a journey towards healing: of heart, mind and self-esteem. And so the sojourn to finding his true self began – the late night reminiscing (coupled with insomnia and the not-so-occasional six-pack), the frustration over his not being inspired to write anymore hence the back-up articles he submits to his bitchy boss who grudgingly accepts that yes, those stories have some unexpected reader appeal, and his turning over to his friends for support and comfort he desperately wants (yes, this is indeed a full Indian production complete with tragedies from other characters, and not that minor mind you, making the whole book a tasty Indian affair complete with mouthwatering curry. Yum yum. 😀 )
Now you say what then makes this book different from other hero-or-heroine-got-heartbroken-over-a-lover’s-betrayal stories? My answer is simple. Its distinct Indian flavor that you could actually see, touch, smell and hear that no matter what page you are on, you are engulfed in its presence. It’s like you’re being allowed to become a voyeur in an Indian comedy that comes with its own lilting Bollywood music that reverberates throughout the entire affair. What separates The Journey of Om from the rest of the pile is it doesn’t try too hard. You just get sucked up into the story because it is not something foreign but stories we see unfold in the lives of our friends, family, neighbors or even our own.
I thought that I have known how a bad breakup affects the offended party after seeing my friends getting their hearts trampled on not just a few times (sorry dear amigas that I have to hint at some of the uh, memorable events in your lives but promise no names mentioned here…hehe) But it really is a painful process. Not to reveal anything prematurely here (get yourself a copy…it’s worth reading over and over and oh, to whack a friend’s head should he/she start acting crazy over a heartbreak), but Om was a wreck slowly repairing himself in a two steps forward, one step backward dance. Sometimes you just want to yank him and whip him up to shape letting him know that it’s not worth losing his sense of what’s important over some girl. But who am I to cast the first stone? My heart hasn’t been broken real bad (nor do I wish for anyone to go through what Om went through and triumphed on…oops…did I just hint at something there? *wink*)
And like a friend you’ve known for quite some time suddenly acting out of character, the ending will somehow catch you by surprise. It wasn’t entirely unexpected though; just the right amount of shock to let the reader feel that the author is on top of his game and that life, like a really good read will let you invest your whole being as you savor the experience up to the last page. Like life, love is a roller coaster – the ending may surprise you but the ride was all worth it.
I want to thank Mr. Chandru Bhojwani for the trust he has given me (and the neat book that comes with it). I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to do justice to your masterpiece but words cannot describe my gratitude for your giving me that chance to prove to the world and more importantly to myself that I can make it. And I made it. Thank you very much.
And oh, I want to kinda apologize for the creases that dent the book you gave. You see, I ride a jeep every morning going to work (except when I am almost late when I take a cab instead) and the hour-long ride is an agony without a companion – a book, that is. And I brought and read your book for many times than I could remember. I’m sure that a lot of people has taken a glance at the enticing cover wishing that they too could have a chance to enjoy what I was leafing through. It’s just that wonderful. Now I just need a perfect companion – Welch’s Sparkling Wine or an Arbor Mist this time – to celebrate a journey of love and life.
Image used above is courtesy from the author’s website. Know more about this raved Indian author at www.chandrubhojwani.com.
Chandru also blogs about the joys of marriage in My Marriage, My Wife, My Life.