Flat-Track Bullies is a book 10-12 year-old boys will enjoy thoroughly. The book is vaguely familiar. It’s not written in elitist English, but its student-friendly language with a touch of Rajnikanth’s all-too-famous dialogues makes the book your own.
The protagonist’s (Ravi) control-freak parents (and I’m talking from a completely objective point of view here) add humour to the book, though the incessant parents’ and teachers’ bashing is disrespectful and could have been avoided.
What is really appreciable about the storyline was the element of children running the rat race, making concerted efforts to ace in every arena and competing for material success adds a subtle touch of realism to the book. And in support of my hippie theory of always following your heart, the science teacher and the grandfather offer useful advice and teach an important lesson – that it’s okay to fail sometimes and to not want to chase those all-too-common goals like getting into IIT.
The author takes a casual dig at the way grown ups think and how they attempt to turn summer vacations into organized lazing around. And, as a teen in my apparently ‘rebellious’ years, I can understand how difficult adults make it for children to have fun. Balaji Venkataraman has captured the true essence a typical Tam-Bram family in 21st century India.
My favourite part of the book was undoubtedly the interaction between Ravi and his grandparents. His immense love for his grandparents and their pampering was adorable. I could almost smell the ghee-laden laddoos my nani makes for me every winter.
The protagonist’s weird sense of humor and the use of fruit names instead of I-won’t- tell-you-what kept me turning pages. What is really despicable though is how the protagonist prays to God, rather begs and bribes God with coconuts to forgive him and help him one last time. And I couldn’t quite comprehend why there were quotes at the bottom of each page.
Thanks to the web of lies the protagonist weaves, the plot deepens. Though dramatic, this book by Balaji Venkataramanan, published by Duckbill, is awfully intriguing. It offers a deep insight into how an 11-year-old boy, growing up in modern India with all its expectations, thinks. A significant contribution in books for preteens, Flat Track Bullies is a delightful vacation read!
Written by: Balaji Venkatramanan
Price: Rs 250
Reviewed by Sidika Sehgal, Delhi