Yet another campus novel but with a little twist! Up Campus and Down Campus: The Adventures of Aniraban Roy in JNU, authored by Times of India journalist Avijit Ghosh, takes a peep at campus life in JNU of bygone vintage era of 80’s. He walks you back, inter alia, to campus politics during some of watershed events in history like Tiananmen massacre and Mandal agitation while spilling the dirty secret of leftists of campus simultaneously. Fasten your seat belt for a thrilling adventure to the JNU of 80’s! Jet set go!
The protagonist of story is a Bengali lad Anirban Roy, who grew up in Bihar and lands in India’s arguably most controversial campus – Jawaharlal Nehru University- with a firm determination to become a Babu. The very first day he arrives he gets the taste of what JNU feels like. Without knocking door he pushes the door of his hostel room open to discover his would-be desi roomy heating up with a Russian babe on bed. This is just warm up for many out of world experiences that he would encounter in the campus.
There are couple of other novels about JNU like Soma Das’ Something of a Mocktale and Tulika Dubey’s Where is My Story – The JNU Way but they are more like personal stories and don’t touch range of issues that are integral part of campus life in JNU. Up Campus and Down Campus though set in 80’s vividly describes anatomy. geography and culture of JNU with quirky satire and humour.
What amazes me the author’s masterly way of using English language, which is far better and sophisticated than contemporary authors of similar genre like Chetan Bhagat, Durjoy Datta and Amitav Bagchi. He has an amazing wardrobe, which he has put to good use in the book. Some of the witty humours and sardonic satires will surely appeal to the intellect of readers.
The book is however not free from limitations. Chapters in the book lack flow, which might put off off-beat readers. Despite having a great command over English, the author did not do justice to the conversations in the book. They sound more like prose than spoken English. Further, the book suffers from having a no climax. Not a single chapter, even the scene of Anirban borrowing money and rushing to Arrah in Bihar to be with his lady love whose daughter diagnosed with Japanese encephalitis, could arouse a slightest shred of emotion in me.
Finally, at some places the book defy common sense. For instance, towards the end of novel, Anirban meets his post graduate room mate Bhatia, who informs him that he had appeared in UGC’s National Eligibility Test and also preparing for IAS exam. In same breath he also tells Anirban that he plans to marry his Russian girlfriend, move to Moscow and open a restaurant along with her. So the question is what exactly is Bhatia’s plan for future? There are few similar instances in the book.
Up Campus and Down Campus is nevertheless an honest account of writer’s rendezvous in campus during the 80’s and he does not exaggerate. A fun to read, mishmash of humours, barbs and satire, the book is good one for campus novel lovers.