Panther – Chhimi Tenduf La – Book Review


PantherGoodreads blurb: I see you. Legs like toothpicks, body and face all ribs and cheekbones. And that hair. Come on, what is it? Like friggin’ barbed wire. I see you with a hand-me-down cracked bat creaming a leather ball, in a sock, hanging from the branch of a mango tree.

Being accepted into an elite international school on a cricket scholarship doesn’t mean your life is going to change. Except it does, because hunky Indika – I for Indika, I for Incredible – takes you under his wing, drags you to posh restaurants and shows you pictures from glossy magazines of women who … well, never mind, that’s not the point. The point is: if your best friend snogs your girlfriend, can he still be Incredible? Was he ever? But don’t sweat the small stuff. There are cricket matches to win, examinations to pass, a horrifying past to forget, a sinister schoolmaster to avoid … and, of course, a first kiss to finally experience. Prabu’s life is never going to be the same again.

Funny, diamond-sharp and unapologetic, Panther is a novel about that familiar, fractured passage to adulthood that can make us magnificent if it does not kill us.

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While all authors (at least the good ones) need to have the ability to harness the ‘voice’ of their main protagonists and antagonists, very few ones successfully manage to convince their readers so comprehensively that the lines between the author and his characters’ voices blur. The really good authors do so in a manner that the readers begin to believe that the author is narrating his own story and from his own autobiographical experiences rather than writing a novel or a story which is fully fictional in nature.

With Panther, the author Chhimi Tenduf-La almost managed to convince me that he had a childhood which was spent in a Sri Lankan Tamil rebel fighter camp, that he was separated from his parents and taken there, that he had deep dark secrets during these years that still sear his memories and scare him till date, that he developed this wonderful friendship with a Sinhala ‘wannabe Sachin Tendulkar’ and that the two of them had some really good times and a few bad times as well at school together. The lines between where the author is telling us a story versus where he seems to get autobiographical are so blurred that for most part of the book, I felt that Prabu, the protagonist was the author as well. That is how well the author has managed to get under the skin of this particular character.

As the blurb and the above paragraph states, this book is essentially a ‘coming of age’ story of Prabu, a young Tamil rebel fighter in Sri Lanka who is undergoing the process of rehabilitation in a country were a bitter, cruel and terrible civil war has ended and is currently coming to terms with its new multi-cultural reality. Cricket seems to be Prabu’s only way out of the messy situation he finds himself in at that point in time and it provides him with a gateway to an education and a school life which he wouldn’t have even imagined possible otherwise. But there’s another deeper, darker motivation behind him joining school as well, and that to me, is that makes this book more serious and way darker than it looks and reads at the outset.

Suffice to say that Panther gives us an unique insight into a whole generation of teenagers and youngsters who have grown up on both sides of the Sri Lankan civil war and provides readers with at least a vague idea of both perspectives, while being interesting and fun enough to read without getting all too serious about it.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link]

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A copy of this book was provided to me by the author, Chhimi Tenduf-La expecting nothing whatsoever in return. Thanks Chhimi, this book was as enjoyable, if not more, than your earlier publication, The Amazing Racist whose review I had published here [Link to review]

The Amazing Racist – Chhimi Tenduf-La – Book Review


TheAmazingRacistGoodreads blurb: Eddie Trusted, an English school teacher in Colombo, wants to spend his life with Menaka Rupasinghe, a vibrant Sri Lankan beauty, but as with all matters of the heart, there’s an obstacle. If Eddie wants to wed Menaka, it is Thilak Rupasinghe, her orthodox terror of a father, whom he must woo and whose farts he must kiss – Thilak wants his daughter to marry someone of the same race, religion and caste, and if possible from the same locality.

In a desperate bid to make his dream a reality, Eddie tries to connect with Thilak in other ways – eating curries that make him bleed spice and breathe fire, driving drunk through red lights, threatening co-workers with violence, and sleeping with snakes. But will Eddie ever be good enough for a man who hates the color of his skin?

Sparkling with wit and featuring an endearing cast of characters, The Amazing Racist is the story of a man who finds a home among strangers, of a father-in-law whose bark is worse than his bite, and of bonds that grow to be stronger than family ties.

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There are more than a few things which tear me up, and until today, books were not on that list. But that last line of The Amazing Racist by Chhimi Tenduf-La opened up the tear glands, albeit just for a few seconds.

This lovely simple well written book does not have a complicated plot and has characters which all readers can easily relate to. I am more than sure that all readers of this book can relate to some or the other aspect of these characters to some traits and behaviors in themselves. And the story itself, to be honest, is quite clichéd. However, despite all these so called ‘flaws’, what makes this a must-read book is the fact that the author has written it from his heart. The plot itself, the situations, how the author deals with the myriad emotions of Eddie Trusted through the five odd years of his stay in Sri Lanka which form the crux of this book; these are the reasons to read this book.

The author very subtly tugs at readers’ heartstrings and appeals to their emotions using fatherhood and parenting as his hooks. I don’t read too many books in the ‘family drama’ genre, but this one and Em and The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto [Link to my review] have dealt with the concept of parenting, parents and caregiving in a manner which I possibly cannot even imagine of. While we all hear stories of people literally giving up their own lives to be caregivers to their parents and loved ones, using that as the backdrop of an entire novel is something that this book and the one by Jerry Pinto take to an entirely new level.

Thilak Rupasinghe is your regular well to do Sri Lankan businessman who hates anything remotely colonial and it therefore doesn’t help that his daughter Menaka brings home a white boyfriend, Eddie Trusted and promptly announces that she intends to marry him. The first third of the book deals with how Thilak tries his best to drive Eddie out of his daughter’s life and in some cases, out of the country itself. This portion of the book nicely sets up for the events that happen in the second and final thirds of the book. I am not giving any more spoilers here as the paragraphs preceding this have already told enough about what this book is about.

Suffice to say that all parents and caregivers should read this book at least once, if not for anything else, at least for the fact that they would be able to appreciate the emotions that Eddie Trusted goes through in the last few pages of the book.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me as part of the Book Review Program from Blogadda. However, the review itself is completely unbiased and the views presented are my own.