The householder is expected to set things right in our country. After all, he takes care of the household, doesn’t he? He has to manage a job, the perils of working for someone he may or may not like, the wife at home (who will or will not nag), the children (who will or will not demand), and then maybe some time for himself (if he manages to at all). That is the image of almost every common man that we conjure in our heads when we hear the term, “Householder”.
This is what Amitabha Bagchi portrays in his book, “The Householder”. I managed to read this book by chance and I must say that I was quite taken in by it. Initially, I found it difficult to settle into it – for obvious reasons perhaps – the story line, the way the book started off, however once I got into it; I was taken in by the story.
Corruption is at the heart of this book, and at various levels. The protagonist, Naresh Kumar, is PA to Shri R.K. Asthana, IAS. He is the so-called corrupt PA to his corrupt boss, depicting the physical form of corruption. Naresh has been involved in years of suspect dealings and under-the-table transactions for his boss and knows ways and means of covering the tracks. However, everything does not go as planned for Naresh in his life. Due to a mishandled case, his career is in jeopardy. His married daughter’s life is in distress. His son’s call center job is a cover for something darker. His wife expects him to solve all problems. That is the crux of the story – of a householder caught in his life, embroiled to an extent that he cannot recognize it anymore.
Naresh Kumar is struggling throughout the book. The reader empathizes with him to a large extent and hopes that things get better. That only goes to show the level of writing. The book does get slow at times, but then picks up pace once more. Amitabha writes about a world where money rules and nothing can be done without it – he presents the dilemma of a common man – of morals, of the metaphoric good and evil and the choices we make.
The reality of the situation in the book is believable at almost every page. The Delhi, in which the book is set, is cut-throat, the Capital that only understands the language of power and money. The characters are real and identifiable – wanting everything under the sun and knowing that maybe the means are not correct and yet, sometimes despairingly so left with no choices.
The writing is razor sharp and does not flinch from depicting the moral decay of our times. The book leaves the reader wanting more and with the knowledge that maybe there is some hope for Naresh and his family. That maybe the householder will not disappoint. At the same time, read the book to face some difficult questions it raises and the answers that can only come from within.