Title : Andy Leelu
Author : B.L. Gautam
Publisher : Zorba Publishers
ISBN : 978-81920669-5-0
Andy Leelu is a story of a rebel, a troublemaker, a good-for-nothing boy who has come to his maternal uncle’s place – Sehore from his birth place Mohindergarh. This is not a regular pleasure visit to Sehore which he used to indulge in with his mother during every summer vacation. This time he has come to Sehore for good, the reason being his mother not able to bear the abuses and atrocities that her husband meted out to her, any longer. Leelu finds a patron, a comrade, a companion and an obedient follower in his cousin, Radhe(the author). Because of this association, Radhe often finds himself in sticky situations to the disliking of his righteous father – Masterji.
As the story progresses, mystery behind ‘Andy’ is revealed – how the unparalleled bravery earned Leelu the epithet of Andy, and how this free-spirited, audacious person went on with his life on his own terms – displaying evident signs of irreverence for people and right conduct, his rebellious attitude, his disinterest in studies and his desperation to explore taboo territories. But his personality cannot be sketched in just a few words, his was truly a layered personality who had his own algorithm for handling the relations in his life. He had a set of people occupying priority concentric circles in his life and he demonstrated on more than one occasions how he could go to any length to show the preference or otherwise for them, though not vocally.
The highlight of the story is the unsolved mystery around Andy Leelu which leaves the readers to exercise their imagination and settle for the solution that makes sense to them.
The high point of Leelu’s saga is that his memory would not cease to exist with the turn of the last page, it would keep intriguing the readers for a long time. It is very easy to brand him as a ‘bad’ boy but sometimes the circumstances do play significant role in stigmatizing a person. So how his personality shaped up has a lot to do with his immature way of making sense of the world around him after getting uprooted from his native place.
The narrative is littered with liberal potions of sexual fantasies and escapades of teenagers expertly mentored by Leelu. There is realistic presentation of the challenges of growing up and, the push and pull of forces working inside everyone’s mind and heart when passing through that phase. This is a semi-autobiographical writing and is evident from the vivid portrayal of Radhe’s inner feelings, struggles, apprehensions and fears. Gautam has truly brought his cousin to life in this book, who died young.
The story takes a bigger and broader stage as the writer beautifully develops the backdrop of India in 1960s. On one hand the euphoria of independence had not subsided completely, while on the other there were open wounds of partition still and all this while being forced into wars by hostile neighbours in Pakistan and China. This was a nation marching ahead though unsurely and ill-equipped for natural calamities, famines and epidemics like cholera.
The rustic feel in Gautam’s writing somehow brought back the memories of Godhan and Gaban by none other than the iconic writer – Mushi Premchand himself. The good thing about ‘Andy Leelu’ is that though the story is set in 1960′s the handling is very contemporary which rules out the chance of it being categorized as outdated. The language is a delight to read especially during these times when good number of substandard stuff is also hitting the shelves. The words just flow unabashedly and no word seems to be out of place or context.
However, there are portions in the narrative when if feels like the story is going nowhere and one after another Leelu is getting involved in some or the other exploits. The proceedings pick some speed up but also slow down at many speed breakers which disrupt the otherwise nice flow.