Song of India

From The New York Times:

Amit Amit Chaudhuri’s new novel, a comedy of manners set in 1980s India, centers on the teenage scion of a corporate family who neither dresses nor acts the part. Instead, Nirmalya Sengupta, in his uniform of faded kurta and jeans, a copy of Will Durant’s “Story of Philosophy” as totem, takes the bus home from school while his father’s Mercedes follows at a discreet distance.

A devotee of Indian classical music, the boy is intent on defending this tradition against the threat of commercialism. As it happens, ragas run in the blood of both the protagonist of “The Immortals” and its author. Chaudhuri is not only a devotee of Hindustani music, but also a professional musician with several releases to his credit. (He sings his own compositions on a recent experimental album cheekily titled “This Is Not Fusion.”) Like his main character, Chaudhuri was tutored by a songstress mother and a beloved Rajasthani guru. And the biographical symmetries don’t stop with the music. Chaudhuri lends Nirmalya his own health condition (a heart murmur), his own cosmopolitan identity (as a Bengali raised in Bombay — now Mumbai — and schooled in London) and the addresses of his own youth (the Senguptas retire from a luxury high-rise in downtown Bombay to Bandra, which at the time was on the frontier of the feverishly growing city, a suburb of churches and gulmohar trees where the Chaudhuris also lived).

But none of these parallels protect Nirmalya from the wry, knowing authorial tone that makes the book so pleasurable, despite the sparseness of its plot.

More here.