Posted in Books

Book Review: An Excursion of Insight, by Harsh Agarwal

About the author:
Harsh Agarwal is a young writing enthusiast who made his debut in the publishing industry at the age of nineteen. His stories are usually out-of-the-box. He is also a book reviewer. The owner of a literary organization called Asylum dedicated to aspiring authors, he is also the project head for “Time’s Lost Atlas”, an anthology of short stories and chairperson of Project Hummingbird, a charitable organization.

Thoughts on the cover page:
Calm and soothing design that makes us think of a sunset or sunrise, a very zen design. The silhouette of the boy with a backpack is also well done, and after you read the story, it would seem justified.

Impressions from the blurb:
A tale with usual events that are turned unusual in some way, that’s what I felt reading the blurb before I started reading the novel. The setting of North East India was also appealing in its difference, for you don’t usually see novels in that setting.

My thoughts on the book:
I don’t quite know if this is a literary fiction per-se but it does have qualities of one. There is depth to this story, bringing out the emotions where we might usually choose not to. It’s a tale that is narrated in simple and lucid language, yet has the power to hold the reader in its various layers. The topics touched upon were partly a part of my college life too, but something that we kept to ourselves and moved on with it. What is there in the story isn’t unrealistic for sure.

Sonam Dorji, a Bhutanese student sponsored by the Royal Family comes to Silchar to do his engineering. There, he settles in slowly, not losing himself or his philosophies and ideas on life and the ethics that are engrained in him since the beginning. His pleasing disposition gets him many friends. He’s a Buddhist, and he respects his religion, and his loyalty to that makes him more loved.

As time wears on, he begins to see that all is not what it is shown to be to the outside world. Facilities are exaggerated, teachers just start giving problems without telling how to solve them, and the students are left to work out what to do for themselves. He finds that his straightforward attitude to life is not only liked, but also taken advantage of. He finds himself falling in love, but still chooses to remain true to his girlfriend back in Bhutan, till she breaks it off. He tries to voice against the administration when seniors begin to rag the students, chooses to question the characters of those seniors standing in the election etc.

You could say he’s sort of the voice of the common man, one that speaks up without hesitation; and his friends and classmates are somewhat like RK Laxman’s “Common Man”, who keep quiet though they know and understand that something wrong is happening. Agarwal’s writing holds the reader in rapt attention as events proceed in the plot. Though sometimes we do feel that the pace went off, and the specification of place before an event just by stating it feels somewhat off. Perhaps, if he had done it through a character’s dialogue instead, it’d have been more involving. Like for e.g. instead of Student’s Mess, L’arc-en-ciel at the start of a paragraph, if Sonam or another character told, “We were sitting at a table in the Mess of L’arc-en-ciel”. Sonam and Sarika’s love story goes smoothly and at times too direct, but for a fresher love story, that directness sometimes works. Through this novel, Agarwal explores many facets of India like discrimination, politics and the mingling of many cultures. For the last part especially, a college backdrop felt very right.

Lovely flow, and characters that are well thought of. I very much enjoyed this read. The cost is quite agreeable as well.

A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book details:
Title: An Excursion of Insight
Author: Harsh Agarwal
ISBN: 978-93-82536-04-8
Publishers: LiFi Publications
Genre: Literary Fiction
Price: INR. 190


This is an author-requested review, given for a review copy of the book but no other payment.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.

Shared with the First Reads challenge at b00k r3vi3ws and Indian Quills at Tales Pensieve.

(May 4th, 2013)