By Arjun Rao
Bringing back memories of school days is Arjun Rao’s debut novel – Third Best. Though quite a lengthy read, it is interesting and well written.
Set in a fictional co-ed, boarding school Shore Mount, Third Best highlights the story of a batch of schoolmates – essentially Gautam, Nirvan, and Faraz. The other characters you come across are Ruma, Natasha, Bose, Zoya, Gomez, Adi, and Billy.
While Gautam is the noisy and obnoxious being, who doesn’t get frazzled by the bullies, Faraz is the most sophisticated of the lot, with his ideals and morals strongly set, but ends up falling in love with his teacher Zoya.
Nirvan Shrivastav, a shy, reluctant hero burdened with a family history of achievements at Mount, stands up to the bully Nanda and wins his girlfriend Ruma.
The book reveals small-time lies and big heartaches kids face; it highlights the expectations parents hold over a child’s wish; it portrays peer pressures and troubles faced in childhood; it reveals the depths of friendship expressed through fights and quirky nick names given to each other; overall it brings back memories of school days that now seem long, lost and forgotten.
The background about the school’s rituals and location and legend etc are overtly detailed ones. They not only slow the pace but also irk the reader sometime. Too much detailing is never appreciated.
But the characterization shows the author’s keen observation and the talent of getting into a child’s mind/psychology.
The author shows an interesting perspective on life in a residential school with house masters, prefects, bullies, friends, making adolescence quite a trying period in a person’s life.
It sure is a sweet story about school, friendship, loyalty, love – and how not to get caught while you’re making out. The humor, the innocence and the seriousness are quite balanced and the reader is sure to relive school days reading the book.