Okay, full disclosure, I’ve never read The White Tiger. I did read Between the Assasinations, and I thought it was pretty good. But I think it’s Selection Day that finally has me sold on Aravind Adiga.
Manju is the second son of Mohan Kumar, and the second-best bastman in the world, or he should be as per his father’s contract with Lord Subramanya. The first-best batsman in the world should be his brother, Radha. But fate seems to favour Manju. Manju however doesn’t care much for cricket and plays because he fears his tyrannical father. He would rather be a forensic scientist.When Manju meets Javed Ansari –rich, gay and bold, he makes decisions that throw everything and everyone around him into a maelstorm.
The book is set in Mumbai, the home of some of the greatest cricketing legends, such as Gavaskar and Sachin. Adiga’s Mumbai is one that evokes some sharp memories, such as his description of the Chheda Nagar temple, which I’ve visited often. Or the Oval Maidan, where I’ve gone to see school-level cricket being played (and played a game of handball myself).
But there is a hint of unfamiliarity when he talks of cricket. Now cricket is religion for a lot of Indians, but I don’t see the point of seeing any sport being played (play a sport! what is the point of watching it being played?!), know only how the game is played but don’t care much for it. Adiga, however, takes us into cricket clubs and sporting grounds. He takes us into the minds of the parents who push their children to play cricket, the coaches who strive to turn them into the next Tendulkar, the businessmen that see children as investments, and into the minds of young cricketers themselves.
Adiga’s exploration of relationships is enjoyable as he brings his characters to life. Radha and Manju’s relationship with their father is the epitome of bad relationships. Stuck witha father who won’t allow them to shave, or drive, conducts complete physical check-ups weekly, and insists on them playing only cricket, the resentment bottled within them seeps through the pages. The most interesting relationship however, is that between Javed and Manju. Manju is both attracted by and repelled by Javed, who is gay. His inner conflict, as to whether he wants Javed as a friend and support, or as a lover forms the crux of this book.
Adiga’s prose is not quite poetic, but it isn’t drab either. I find myself struggling to describe it. It is detailed and descriptive, and helps to build images, but there is something fuzzy around the edges, as if we were seeing the images through some distorted lens. The pacing seemed to lag a bit, but while I found it easy to set the book aside, I would always come back to it.
Aravind Adiga’s Selection Day is about cricket, circumstances, choices, consequences and coming of age. It is conflicted and frustrated, just like its characters, and definitely worth a read.
FTC disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.