Shillong Times is not the name of the newspaper but it is a fictional book written by Nilanjan P. Choudhury. This book talks about his experience of growing up in Shillong in 1980 amidst curfews, riots and bands.
The story revolves around a friendship of teens namely, Debojit Dutta, Clint Lyngdoh and Audrey Pariat. This friendship has a social angle of clashes between Khasis and dkhar, residents and outsiders. Debojit is a Bengali and Audrey and Clint are from Shillong. Mr. Dutta, father of Debojit expressed his views against these riots. He says, ‘They call us dkhars. We call them Chinkys. Where will this end? It’s 1987 for God’s sake! Forty years since Independence. And we are still fighting with each other like cats and dogs.’ Even though the book is written on the background of 1987 riots in Shillong, the things have not much changed in 2018.
Debu (short for Debojit) is born in Shillong. Debu’s grandfather moved to Shillong with his family when Debu’s father was a kid. Debu is born in Shillong but he is still treated as an outsider and is attacked by a few Khasi boys (local) on his way home. Soon after the incident, he meets Clint in the maths class. Initially, he tries to keep a distance from Clint because he is also a local guy and a little older than Debu. Soon Clint manages to impress Debu. Debu gets impressed by his smoking, the way he drinks and his carefree attitude. Clint introduces Debu to his friend Audrey. Debu secretly admires Audrey but he has to be careful when he meets her and talks about her as she is a Khasi.
While the friendship is developing over a time, the social scene is also changing in Shillong. The fights between locals and outsiders are increasing leading to frequent curfews, shutdowns and riots. Mr. Dutta is still hopeful that things will change but Mrs. Dutta wants to go back to Calcutta.
When I was reading the book I had a feeling of reading a non-fiction. It is written so well that the difference between fiction and non-fiction vanishes. The book came across to me as a fact-based fiction. The central character appears to be based on authors timespan in Shillong. Even though the book is based on authors memories, he has done a good research about that time. The book teleported me to that era. I could imagine every detail of the place as if I am watching a movie. The story has brought out a mix of emotions in a well-written manner.
If you wish to know about what happened in Shillong in 1987, then this book will give you an idea. Two parallel stories run in the book one is about the friendship and another about the differences between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’. It is difficult to separate these stories from one another. The author has beautifully woven the stories with each other.
However, I wish the author could have focused more on the friendship of teens. I would love to know what happened with Debu, Clint and Audrey after a few years. The character of Audrey should have been developed a bit more. The end of the book didn’t give me the feeling of a complete story. Sometimes the arguments between Mr and Mrs Dutta sounds repetitive and slows down the pace of the story. In my opinion, if a few incidences had been cut down then it wouldn’t have done any harm to the main storyline.
I will give 3.5 stars out of 5 for this story. Click here to read other books by this author
This book review is a part of “The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program and Blog Tours, for details log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.in .
Thank you ‘The Readers Cosmos’!