Hello Bookworms! 👋
Today I have another book that I would like to share with you. It’s called The Petty Gangster by Debaprasad Mukherjee.
Laltu is a spoilt brat who plays nasty tricks and is a part of a gang that commits a burglary. Yet he sings, has a lady love in Poly and a genuine mate in Madhab. He discovers the illegitimacy of his birth at the prime of his youth before he meets his mentor, Dr Bishwaroop, under the most bizarre circumstances.
Laltu’s prospective mother-in-law traps him into attaining a near-impossible goal to marry Poly, and he accepts the same in a surge of temerity. In spite of being ridiculed, he carries ahead with his task with occasional encouragements from unexpected corners.
Does he succeed in his mission? More importantly, does he get the hand of Poly?
‘The Petty Gangster’ is published by Notion Press and is probably the best book I have read from this Publisher. It’s a classic tale of a misguided young boy without a purpose in his life who later realises that he has been pining for things which didn’t matter at all, and sets to work on his errors of judgement.
The Petty Gangster, Laltu, is not as petty as the readers may think when they first encounter his character. He is what we would probably call a “loser”. Laltu is a boy without goals or ambitions, who is poor in academics and belongs to a working class family. One thing he is extremely good at is stealing. He is sly and always looks out for an opportunity to steal, it maybe a penny from his father’s pocket or a small packet of mustard oil from the local club committee. These trivial pursuits of his at times lands him under the cane of his father. He is also well accustomed with people’s thrashing if he gets caught.
The story is set in Rajgangpur which is a small town in Orissa. It is time of Durga Puja where everyone is busy with rehearsals and preparations for the festival but opportunistic Laltu has a completely different motive of visiting the Recreation Club. We get to see the different types of people and their personality as Laltu spies on their rehearsal practices.
Although Laltu is a spoiled brat and makes no attempt to redeem himself off this menial thievery, there are certain things he really cares about. For instance, Laltu really cares about Madhab and does somewhat look up to him. Madhab is exactly the opposite of Laltu but the two form an unlikely bond. Laltu shares all his secrets with him and considers him a friend. Their relationship shows us that Laltu is not as bad as he may seem.
As Laltu’s family becomes more and more chaotic with his mother comparing her children to the neighbours’ all the time and his father enjoying the carnal pleasures with other women, Laltu becomes even more reckless. And, not to mention, there’s Poly and her mother.
As Laltu reaches a certain age, he attains a level of maturity which he never had before. As he is subjected to numerous ridicules from people while he tries to fulfill the goals which his prospective mother-in-law sets for him, Laltu undergoes a visible change and begins to take his life seriously. He realises that he was foolish enough to spend all those years on his insignificant pursuits.
The Petty Gangster felt like a bildungsroman to me. Just like Pip’s character in Great Expectations, Laltu, a petty thief turns around his life for his own good when he discovers the illegitimacy of his birth.
The narrative has a very languid pace but I didn’t mind it much as it allowed me plenty of time to witness Laltu’s complete transformation. Mukherjee has incorporated a number of incidents to depict the transition. There are also some comical elements in the novel which mocks the society and its people. The author has a well sought knowledge of language and I could see it in his diction.
Mukherjee takes the rule of “show, don’t tell” very seriously. The characters are portrayed really well. Laltu is a well-developed character and there’s no doubt in that. Even the supporting characters are well sketched.
Since the narrative follows the “Show, don’t tell” rule, there are times when I felt there was too much of “showing” which made certain paragraphs lengthy. There are some punctuation errors scattered throughout the novel, but not to the extent that it would make me DNF the book. Also, I felt that the word “said” was used too often during the dialogues. Maybe other synonymous words would have worked better. Despite a few of these shortcomings, I really liked reading this book.
It’s been a while since I read a good book by an Indian author. ‘The Petty Gangster’ is a well thought out work of fiction. I would definitely recommend this to everyone out there.
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