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The Author And His Quest

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It could be accepted that the primary conflict in a writer's mind lies in simultaneously wanting to win the hearts of his/her readers and keep the publisher's cash register ringing as well; this subconscious desire is however seldom realised. So when the (self-confessed) maverick protagonist of Ajay Khullar's The Nothing Man resorts to jeopardising his marriage with the ulterior motive of nudging the slackened pace of his new novel, it isn't exactly a bolt from the blue.

The narrative revolves around Barua — a proverbial rolling stone and the titular 'nothing man' — who is a promising writer whose literary debut however not only falls short of taking the publishing world by storm but also fails to match up to his own exacting but lofty writing standards. Thus in an endeavor to uplift the plot of his second book, he chooses to mirror his mundane married life on paper with the hope of infusing in it the much needed freshness it desperately lacked. The ramifications of Barua's actions turn out to be quite severe as his marriage falls apart and the progress of the book gets stalled for an indefinite period of time.

Miserable and anxiety stricken, Barua's need to find solace coerces him to become an activist where his focus remains not the cause but the attendant pain and sorrow that is attached to it. Sadly it takes him fifteen years to realise that closure of loose ends is the only way to create new paths in life. After this dawns on him Barua abandons the vagabond life of an activist to embrace the erudite world of literature he had brutally detested in his previous stint. To accelerate the plot of his book, Barua seduces his ex wife and simultaneously forges a friendship with her husband over drinks. The consequences of his unwelcome intrusion and the subsequent turn and twists of the events form the story of The Nothing Man.

The pedigree of the author bears a stark resemblance to his protagonist. Having dabbled as a journalist, communications professor and adventure sports instructor, Ajay Khullar has now tried his hand in fiction. It is easy to slot this book as semi-autobiographical account of a budding author but this stereotyping is a grave injustice to his writing potential that he possesses in spades. The language of the book is colloquial and heavily peppered with common Hindi words. The author has laboured prodigiously to bring out the inner conflict a writer confronts on his journey to play God in the book he nurtures. Khullar has conspicuously compared the protagonist's misery to the curse of Sisyphus- the fabled Greek hero who was punished by Greek gods to push a rock up hill and roll it down and then again begin anew the drill fresh.  Like our Greek counterpart, we are ordained to lead our dull and prosaic lives and go through the motions of existence leaving us with no choice at all.

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