Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 09/6/23 6:13 AM

Book review: Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors

TEEN COUPLE HAVE FUN OUTDOORS by Aravind Jayan. Serpent`s Tail Books. September 2022 release.

Think Holden Caulfield. Think a slightly older Holden Caulfield transplanted to Trivandrum, living in a regular middle class locality with his father, mother and elder brother. Then, one not-so-fine day, said brother Sreenath`s sex tape with his girlfriend Anita goes viral. Nothing is quite the same again, and we watch everyone`s world colliding and crumbling through the eyes of our narrator.

The stoic tone adopted by him is a flimsy veil for the tumult being suffered by this twenty-year-old and everyone around him. Sex in India is always a hot unmentionable mess but when something to do with sex is outed spectacularly, it`s nothing short of a catastrophe for everyone concerned.

He feels bad for his brother, he sort of understands just what his parents are going through. He tries to find humour in this dismal situation but the wit never quite lands where he wants it to. He tries to play peacemaker but is way out of his depth. He tried to cobble together a support group from among his brother`s friends but that turns out to be a misguided move. All he yearns to do is get the hell out of there, but just can`t figure out how.

Sardonic, laconic but hurting

The reader`s sympathy is with the narrator  almost by the end of the first chapter. Even as they laugh, and there`s much in the narrative that has the reader break out into helpless laughter, they fully feel the pain of those left to pick up the pieces after a sex scandal in India, and fully understand the young man`s intense desire to flee as much as his desire to reinstate normalcy in the house.

`There was an underwater atmosphere in the house: soft speech and sluggish momvements, a lack of light. And though the narrator is aiming for a typical Mallu sardonic/ laconic tone, we learn about his family who were by no means crass, its just that they had no time to be subtle. There`s  his mother who diagnoses fever for anyone going through some turmoil she can`t quite fathom; their town, the capital of Kerala which is basically only a hometown, where after you woke up from a heavy lunch, there as nothing left to do but kill yourself; a distraught Appa who kept saying Sreenath`s name till it went from being  a name to being a disturbing noise; the couple at the epicentre of this quake themselves, who live in a mess, have suffer constant headaches, show a disregard for hygiene, lose weight, gain weight and walk around dead-eyed. Everyone has a form of PTSD, and is dealing with it in their own way.

Sometimes when  things fall apart, the centre just cannot hold. A small sad tale told with much humour by a gifted writer.


Aravind JayanHolden Caulfieldhot messKeralascandalSerpent`s Tail Bookssex scandalteen couple have fun outdoorsThiruvananthapuramTrivandrum

Sheila Kumar • September 6, 2023

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