Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 07/18/15 1:21 PM

Book review: Mad in Heaven By P G Bhaskar

Comic caper

Chennai strolls casually through this hectic and hilarious story.

Once in a blue moon comes a book that settles upon the bustling city of Chennai (Madras) for its chosen locale and tells the story of its denizens; only, the city plays such a major part wittingly or otherwise, that it becomes the second or third hero of the novel.

Mad in Heaven is one such. We are introduced to the Prakash family, which lives in the heart of Mylapore. Mr. Prakash, senior journalist with the Chennai Filter, is a man given to making wry comments on virtually everything he sees.

Most of these are either ignored by his family or go over their heads. His wife Pushpa teaches chemistry at Ignited Minds High School and her meltdowns in class will have the reader ROFLing. Their winsome daughters, Priyanka and Palak, are of marriageable age and the groom hunt has begin; for Priyanka at least. Priyanka, after an earlier hysterical girl-seeing session, is ‘shown’ Dr. Ravi Narasimhan and starts to date him (not that Chennai would call it dating, perish the thought) in a rather desultory and somewhat indifferent fashion.

The tale is peopled by a host of characters, each funnier than the other. There is the unprepossessing Dayanidhi (Danny) Kumaravel who lives in the penthouse of Rishwath Towers, and, no, he doesn’t know Hindi too well, which is just as well. The tagline of his realty business reads: Book Your Berth. On Mother Earth.

There is Alleppey Sukumaran Siddharthan (ASS, of course, for short), Palak’s boss, who doesn’t exactly cover himself with glory. There is Vikram Ravichandran who is madly and mostly silently in love with Priyanka. He knows nothing is going to come of this; so, to drown his sorrows, he runs.

Given that it is not easy, as the author remarks, to run in any Indian metropolis, to run in Chennai is indeed a great feat. But Vikram runs, like Pan Singh Tomar, fast and straight, through traffic, past red signals. (Of course, all that running pays off in the end.) There is the barely literate goon Muthu, who fancies he has a chance with Palak; there are his sidekicks Selvam and Dorai. There is the irrepressible sardar, Saby Singh. And the mysterious John Pandian.

Chennai strolls through the pages of this tale with gay insouciance, with its non-existent cool breeze and its many opportunities for massive love (‘llauu’ as Danny Kumaravel would have it) failures, its one-stop recreational attraction: the beach. My favourite Chennai quirk is the lift in Prakash’s block of apartments that screeches ‘dayavuseidhu kadhavai moodavum’ (Please close the door) incessantly.

Bhaskar’s story runs along merrily, moving from madcap situation to madcap situation. Did Dr. Ravi blow his chances with Priyanka by appearing with a false X-ray stuck down his trousers? Does rowdy Muthu manage to force Palak into marriage? How does Robert Burns’ poetry help save the day? Who is John Pandian? Who hired a detective in the Mahabharata? Answers lurk inside the book, which the author has dedicated to P.G. Wodehouse.

The style, tongue perpetually in cheek, is true Wodehouse, as is the way the characters are linked (Vikram is Danny’s nephew; Danny also owns and runs DK Detectives; Dr. Ravi’s parents employ a detective to spy on Priyanka; the detective turns out to be Vikram…) and come together in the most hectic and hilarious fashion at the conclusion. The Master would have been pleased.

This ran in THE HINDU`S LITERARY REVIEW of 18 July 2015.

Chennaicomic caperMad in HeavenMadras taleP G Bhaskar

Sheila Kumar • July 18, 2015

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