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Updated: August 4, 2012 18:13 IST

Looking back

SHEILA KUMAR
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The Angel’s Share; Satyajit Sarna, HarperCollins, Rs 250.
Special Arrangement The Angel’s Share; Satyajit Sarna, HarperCollins, Rs 250.

How some lives and dreams don’t pan out as intended.

Let’s state the obvious first. The cover is simply gorgeous. The opening paragraph is a winner, one that reels the reader in artfully talking as it does of death, friendship, a woman, one sharply emotional moment.

Sarna’s book is a coming-of-age story, featuring the protagonist and his gang of friends at Bangalore’s National Law School of India University. Yeah, yeah, it’s all there: sex, drugs, rock and roll, heartbreak, betrayals and at least one, needless, horrific death. Here, not three but some idiots — intelligent idiots, let’s get that clear — look back in wistfulness. There’s Raghav, Kelkar, Amlan, there’s Jennifer, Kiran and Seshadri Ramachandran, all attempting to face down, run away from or quell their demons.

Intriguing title

The title of the book is intriguing and when the reader gets to page 54, it is explained. (Of course, the blurb at the back does act as spoiler but we are talking of the true-blue reader, not those who would merely skip through the book). The unfamiliar term has to do with the amount of distilled liquor that evaporates from the storage barrel, leaving behind a sweeter, richer, complex flavour. Back in the day, what was lost was called the angel’s share.

The angel here is Sasha Kapur, smart, wacky and clearly walking the doomed line. Our hero, Zorawar Chauhan, a regular guy and now a legal eagle — if less than thrilled by the occupational hazards of his career (the love affair with the world of loan documents and producing money out of thin air is waning) — puts down this back-then memoir as a tribute to Sasha.

Unleavened by honesty

This is campus fiction/lad lit based on a thin raft of fact; it so happened that Sarna’s roommate was killed at NLSIU. It’s a happily subjective view of life in Bangalore, it’s a rant against the system, it talks rhapsodically about football. There are bits that are really funny, like how peanuts can be ordered as either ‘Congress’ (salted, split into halves) or ‘BJP’ (whole, coated with a bright orange paste).

The problem is, the young-old cynicism that underpins much of the narrative doesn’t carry much conviction, neither does the putative love story. In fact, Zorawar comes through as an unadulterated cad in his relationship with Jennifer, unleavened even by his honesty about it all.

The Angel’s Share is a mildly entertaining read. But I am willing to wager that Sarna’s next book will be better. Heaps better.

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