RS 199 PP 137
How about this? A delightful, slim novel set in Goa and the real hero isn't Goa for a change, but a Deadhead of a grandfhther who leaves a secret that needs uncovering.
Colin Fernandes starts his pretend-memoir (both he and his protagonist Alonso Gonzalez are born on December 18, 1979 in Delhi) with an echoing bang: "Grampa always used to say 'Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving in a well-preserved body; rathel; to slide sideways, mojito in one hand, Mary Jane in the other, screaming whoo hoo...what a ride!"
The 'whoo hoo' that follows in the description of 'Grampa' Santiago Alvarez's now-you-seehim, now-you-don't life as a chillum-toting, ladies-fluttering elder citizen is actually a part of the charm of Viva Santiago.
For a story that could have been little else than a novella of the post-teenage 'beach bum' genre, Fernandes modulates the voice of his hero, who is recollecting his family as well as trvby to crack a cyxle kft by his Grampa.
The Romantic nature of Alonso makes the book an existential story where uppers - rather than the downers associated with the 'E' word -kick into play There is a bit of a 'Hardy Boys' quality to the whole search for the 'treasure trove' in which Alonso and his friends get themselves busy in. The clues - lines from Dylan songs - inject a playful quality to the whole enterprise.
But Fernandes real strength lies in his surfy use of language. "Grampa came back, heh-hehed into his prawn...", "we stood watching memories pop and sparkle", "I woke with the side of my face spit-glued to the desk" being only a few of many memorable lines littered playfully throughout the book. Viva Santiago has the charm of vivid lightness as well as the rare quality of being eye-brows raisingly lyrical at the same time.
And no, you don't have to know your Goa - or your Grateful Dead - to enjoy it. Although a Dylan fetish wil1help.
Rohit Pande is a Delhi-based writer.