The Hero's Walk-Anita Rau Badami

Having read (and enjoyed) Badami's first book Tamarind Woman, I was very eager to read her sophomore novel, though with the apprehension that this one may also be in the same lines of woman trying to erase her past. Thankfully I was proved wrong.

Sripathi, a middle aged copywriter, has always settled down for something less than what he expected. His already ordinary and complaining life, suffers a severe blow when his estranged daughter (Maya) and son-in-law expire in an accident in faraway foreign land. All he's left with is his guilt, repentance for egotism, and a 7-year old grand-daughter who becomes unintentionally mute by the unforeseen tragedy. The rest of the story is how each person in the grief-stricken family fights the loss.

Now, the story-line sounds deceptively average, what with the mundane characters like succumbing-to-the-husband's-ego type wife and acid-tongued-attention-seeking-80 plus granny. But again when it comes to etching the characters in an impeccable manner Badami wins hands down.

Nirmala is the submissive wife of Sripathi. There's Putti the not-so-young sister and Ammayya the grit and greedy mother of Sripathi. So unsympathetic is she that on the death of her grand daughter Maya, she broods petulantly that her daily routine should not be affected in anyway. "Love was an extravagance that Ammayya could ill afford", describes the author of her rigid and tyrannical behaviour. She turns down all marital alliances seeking Putti, for fear of she being left alone.

Arun is the ascetic society conscious son of Sripathi & Nirmala. Yeah, you guessed it right.. his ideolgies are disliked by the family especially the dad. However he's the only solace for 7 year old Nandana, (Maya's daughter) who arrives in India and finds everything quaint and puzzling. Whenever the narration is from the viewpoint of the little girl, the understated melancholy would touch a chord.

The whole story revolves around Toturpuram. (Now this failed to make sense to me. Why would the author create a fictional town?, while all the street names and localities bear obvious semblance to an existing town)

I found the title of the book very interesting. Though Sripathi is the central character and the term "hero" is usually a reference to the male protagonist, there is room for assumption as to who the hero actually is, in this story. (Remember, some people do accept Ravana as the hero in Ramayana!). The way each character decides to move on with life is quite interesting and who the hero actually is, is left for you to read and figure out.

The narration takes the form of high drama (Chetan Bhagatish) towards the end, and this really let me down. I guess it was added for a dosage of humour. Nevertheless, the book promises an interesting read. I would give 3/5.