The story is set in 1962, in a sleepy little village named Sehore in the state of Punjab. The main protagonist is a rebellious teenager who lives by his own rules. He detests any authority over him and does what his heart wills. Because of his audacious nature and dare-me-if-you-can attitude, he is labelled as a bad boy.
The novel is semi autobiographical in nature. It draws inspiration from the author’s cousin Leelu who disappeared mysteriously and died at a young age. This book is a tribute to him. Through this story, the author takes us to his own childhood and reminisces his days spent in the company of Leelu and the various escapades he had been a part of.
Leelu comes to live in his maternal uncle’s place after his mother, unable to bear the cruelties and abuses of his husband, leaves Mohindergarh to return to her maternal home. It is then the companionship of the author with Leelu begins. Radhe (the author), son of Masterji is in awe for Leelu for his audacity and carefree nature. Radhe has the image of an quintessential good boy and Leelu is incorrigibly bad boy. Their companionship and camaraderie is not approved by Masterji, who has a reputation to live up to. The author dwells upon many of their secret missions, some of which finally put them in real trouble. There is also a liberal dose of a teenager’s sexual fantasies as he discovers his own body and desires. Also there is a tiny love story in the making.
The early sixties were a tough time for India. It was still a young nation and there was too many things to cope up with. The wounds of partition were still fresh, wars with neighbors were looming, there was a constant fight against cholera and famine, the nation was still learning to cope up with hard earned freedom. The back drop of this time is intricately woven into the story. As one reads the story, one knows not only the story but also the socio economic issues India faced at that time.
What I was intrigued at first was the name of the book itself – Andy Leelu. It seemed a very English name and wondered why would one be named such in 1960s even after fighting against the English for freedom. The answer was not very far in the novel. Leelu won himself the title of Andy after showing heroic courage and saving a life, while other onlookers were finding themselves helpless in the situation. The named Andy was apparently after a freedom fighter from Sehore.
The story builds up slowly at first and picks up momentum by half way. A few times I found the description monotonous but many a times I could relate to the village life and incidents. When finally Andy Leelu disappears, there are a string of unanswered questions that will leave the readers baffled. I wished if only he would return just once to solve the mystery behind. The author has put his heart in the story, that is evident when one reads the book. It is a compelling, multilayer-ed tale of love, companionship and rebellion.
To know more about the author and the book visit http://andyleelu.com
This review was also posted on Pages (www.jbabel.blogspot.com)
This review was requested by the author.
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