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Charming debut for the ageless middle-class India ...

Charming debut for the ageless middle-class India by Aravind Jayan

featured image for Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors by Aravind Jayan.

The debut novel of Bangalore-based writer Aravind Jayan, Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors, is a hilariously narrated, small-town family drama. On the day that a family from middle-class India brings home a brand new white Honda Civic, they discover that a filmed video of their eldest son, twenty-two-year-old Sreenath, and his girlfriend of four years, Anita, has been posted online—and several people have already seen it. Being parents, they are naturally furious when they find out about this—especially when relatives and neighbours start behaving strangely with them. They react with an emotional outburst, causing much drama, and turn Sreenath out of the house.  

The entire saga is narrated by Sreenath’s younger brother, the twenty-year-old unnamed protagonist, who ends up becoming a kind of helpless middleman between his brother and his parents, trying to restore peace and order to a tricky situation. While attempts are made to get the video off the internet, Sreenath begins living in a house with some of his friends. Soon, Anita’s family meets Sreenath’s parents, and there is a lot of hostility between them. It is suggested that the couple marry each other to reduce the shame and humiliation inflicted on them and their families. While the two do not feel that marriage is the solution to the problem, they are finally forced to give in. The couple shortly leaves town and disappears to a city without letting their families know.

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Though angry with Sreenath, his younger brother is secretly inspired by his rebellious spirit. Eager to escape his hometown, he abruptly packs and leaves one day for Bangalore, only to find out that Sreenath and Anita are there. After staying in Bangalore for two months, the protagonist finally gets a job at a marketing firm and starts living in a paying guest accommodation. He also toys with the idea of making a documentary about the whole video incident.

Small Town Story

The story is set in the author’s own hometown, Trivandrum, and rather funnily brings out the quirks of a small town and its people from quintessential middle-class India.

“Not many young people stayed in Trivandrum after they graduated. It was a hometown. You couldn’t squeeze a lot out of it besides the beach, a few awkward bars, and half a mall. The roads cleaned out by eleven and if you wandered around late, you were likely to get stopped by the police. I’d once read a tourist guide that called the city ‘quaint’. It was so quaint that when you woke up on Sunday evenings after a heavy lunch, there was nothing left to do but kill yourself.”

The Internet and Us

Most importantly, the story speaks of our confusing times of technology—mobile phones, the internet, and social media with its multiple likes and comments. It’s hard to imagine how considerably life has changed over the years. On the one hand, the older generation is still rooted in their ancient values, which to them seem virtuous and moralistic; on the other, young people today have so many complex pressures of their own to grapple with growing up. The book also puts into focus the lives of teens who routinely hide things from their families—they party, date, drink, smoke, do drugs and have sex in private behind their backs—and how things can spiral out of control if their parents get to know about any of their misdeeds.  

Conclusion

The poignant story throws light on Indian society, particularly the huge generation gap that sometimes exists within it. The book’s prose is easy to read, and the author is indeed gifted with a very comical way of writing. With several laugh-out-loud moments, parts of it often remind one of The Wonder Years—in middle-class India, of course. Waiting for this one to be made into a film or web series!

Best Quotes

The middleman always finds a way to get to you, no matter how far you go. You can’t hide from him. He doesn’t have a spine and he doesn’t like others having a spine. But he’s always around to solve problems and help the world find peace.

Final Verdict: 4/5

Our Rating System

* – Don’t bother.
** – Borrow it if you must, use it as a travel companion.  
***– Make a purchase. Maybe an online purchase, or a kindle purchase. But buy it, encourage it.
**** – Go to a bookstore and buy it. Pay those extra bucks.
*****–Buy a hardback and show it off in your bookshelf! And then wait for a signed anniversary edition and buy that too.


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