Published 15th August 2021
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Raghav is seven years old and he lives in the ‘good side’ of Colaba in Bombay. He is loved, safe and protected from the darker goings on of life here, though like any child, his curiosity about the ‘other side’ of Colaba is strong. It’s colourful alleys and it’s loud, bustling activities hold mystery and intrigue, but he mustn’t stray there, there is no life for him there, that is until his life is turned upside down. In one day he loses his childhood innocence in a brutal attack, as well as the one person who may have been able to help him through it. After this the only place he can find any solace is the ‘other side’, here he can take out his anger and rage, and spend time with the first friends he’s ever made, though he will never tell them of the attack. Twenty years later Raghav is still frequenting the other side and has made no progression towards ‘growing up’, he’s unemployed and spends his days sitting outside of the Chai shop with his friends who are beginning to make lives for themselves. One day he meets a young girl who lives on the streets, around the same time that a brutal gang rape has taken place, and he feels a strong urge to try and protect this young girls from the harshness of life. Fueled by the need he sets out to try and save those less fortunate, while simultaneously dealing with the painful memories of his own attack twenty years earlier.
This story is set in Bombay in 1992 and Mumbai in 2012 and is inspired by true events.
When the author first contacted me about this book, I was a little dubious because this is not something that I normally read, it’s actually way out of my genre pool (which is quite large) yet I’ve come to learn that sometimes, picking up a book that is completely out of your comfort zone can be so rewarding. And this is exactly what this book was.
Based on true events, this is a story of innocence lost, heartbreak, grief, and the inability to grow up. Raghav is a happy child when we first meet him at seven years old, he is running errands with his mother and we are shown is innocence in a simple scene where he is admiring a toy car that he always sees at a street sellers stall. Even though he lives in the good part of Colaba, his mother still doesn’t have the money to frivolously throw away on a toy, Raghav understands this and doesn’t complain. We also meet his would be attacker who made my skin crawl from the very beginning, and I could tell exactly what was going to happen to him which broke my heart. When his mother has an athsma attack and is ferried away to the hospital, he’s left alone in the apartment until his father returns. This is where his life changes. I will mention a trigger warning here because this book does include the rape of a child. My heart sunk when the man responsible appeared in Raghav’s apartment and was holding the toy car. I feel like this was really setting the scene for Raghav to develop trust issues as he grew up, and it made me feel sick. What I will say is that the awful scene that followed is handled with dignity and respect, not going into explicit details, yet still allowing the reader to understand the gravity of the attack that just happened. This really paved the way for the person Raghav was to become later in life.
The story was well written and as said above, the horrific scene was handled with such tact that I applaud the author. It would have been extremely hard to write such a scene. The pacing in this story was brilliant and I was glued to the page, I just had to know what Raghav was going to do next in his journey of self discovery and his need to protect the vulnerable. It was well thought out and executed and I actually really enjoyed reading it.
The characters were so well written, each different from the next and so distinctly different. I was invested in them all. From Raghav as a seven year old, to Raghav as an adult, to his caring, gentle sister, his grief stricken, worried father, and his friends who were so loyal. Even little Rani, the street beggar garned my empathy even though we didn’t get to interact with her too much. The characters were so strong and I loved reading about them. The development of Raghav from a broken boy, to a broken man, to a man with a purpose was beautiful, and I loved that he stayed true to himself the whole time.
One thing that really sticks in my mind is a parallel drawn between an early scene when Raghav is younger and he sees a man who was “the Man” to know in the other side, to himself as an adult when he finally understands that man that he used to idolise. This scene actually gave me butterflies because the parallel was absolutely perfect. I also love that this brought to light issues that run rampant around the world. The gang rape case was the driving force behind the change in Raghav, and I feel like it’s amazing that something to wonderful can come from something so horrific.
All in all, this was a great read, and I’m so glad that I accepted the offer from the author to read it.I really enjoyed it and honestly, I’m still thinking about it now. Take a chance on a book that is out of your comfort zone, you never know, you might love it.