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Aaraampur Chronicles: The Simple Life in a Small Hill Town

Neha Kirpal reviews Prof. Dhruv Nath’s Welcome to Aaraampur calling it a charming and amusing debut novel of angel investor, mentor, author, and director of the Lead Angels Network

Welcome to Aaraampur is the charming and amusing debut novel of angel investor, mentor, author, and director of the Lead Angels Network, Prof. Dhruv Nath. The book, which is told through a series of short stories, is set in a sleepy little fictional hill town called Aaraampur.

Small Town Setting of Aaraampur

As its name suggests, the people of this idyllic town are relaxed and easygoing, patient and non-demanding. This is probably because everything in the hills proceeds at a leisurely pace, and cannot be hurried. At the very outset, the author describes the peaceful life in Aaraampur: “No massive traffic jams, no pollution, no mad rush to get from one place to another and no desperation to save ‘those two critical minutes.’” The most common occupations among ‘pahariyas’ are relaxing and sipping tea. “Sitting in the sun with a glass of tea and a beedi between finger and thumb – that was all they asked for.”

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In the acknowledgments, Nath writes that he belongs to the hills of Himachal Pradesh, and has spent several years in the quaint town of Solan. And so, that’s where the book is loosely set. Nath also thanks Ruskin Bond for inspiring him to write this book, and some bits of his writing remind one of Bond from time to time.

Meet the Cast of Aaraampur

One of the novel’s protagonists is the legendary Mr. P K Thakur, popularly known as Kaptaan Sahib, who almost made it to the Army. After having worked in Delhi for a few years, he decides to move to Aaraampur to pursue farming in the hills. He is accompanied by his wife and three children, Manju, Sanju, and Panju. When Kaptaan Sahib’s glamorous 40-something cousin comes to visit him like “a breath of fresh air”, romance arrives in sleepy little Aaraampur, particularly for its adult male population, comprising everyone from married men to the oldies and most importantly, the confirmed bachelors.

When Kaptaan Sahib needs a haircut one time, someone directs him to Pahalwaan ji, the local barber who was a champion wrestler in his younger days. Utilizing his skill of pulling out the hair of his opponents, Pahalwaan ji decides the change in profession. Pahalwaan ji soon encounters some competition when Chaman Lal’s ‘Beuty Pallor’ opens up nearby. As the book moves along, the reader also encounters other comical characters, such as Chetu, the painter, and Mangat Ram, the hardworking but rather slow local carpenter.

Some young bright stars of Aaraampur once decide to launch their start-up in town – an app-based taxi service. And so, Aaraampur Cabs is born. In time, the founders realize that drivers take their own sweet time to accept rides, and need to take a midday break for their sacrosanct afternoon siesta. Surprisingly, they also find that their customers are in no mad scramble to get anywhere. “This was Aaraampur, where time was meant to be enjoyed. A delay of one hour? What a godsend. Let’s use it to chit-chat. Or have a cup of tea.”

But odd characters aren’t all that make up this little town. Aaraampurians are also proud of their revered institutions, such as the famous Popular Public School; its prestigious engineering college, the Popular Institute of Technology, or PITS for short; and the Aaraampur Club, the hot address in town – “which would probably put lesser-known clubs such as the Delhi Gymkhana Club to shame.” Elections for the office of the Club’s President is a contest fought as passionately as a war, with serious pre-election campaigns and promises. Also, Aaraampur’s crowning glory is the annual wrestling championship, with participation from people belonging to various towns in the state.

Further, every small town in the hills boasts of that one special halwai – to experience “fine dining at its culinary best”. In Aaraampur, that is Jalebirams. Its signature dish is the bhatura – crisp outside, ultra-soft inside, and dripping with desi ghee. All the members of Jalebiram’s family are named after sweets – Jalebi, Barfi, Gulab, and Imarti. For all the townsfolk, another popular hangout place is Babu Ram’s tea shop.

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A book about “social graces in small towns”, Welcome to Aaraampur is an amusing read. Those who live in small towns themselves would easily be able to relate to the book’s characters, the college, the club, and the various events mentioned.

The reader may also sometimes see similarities between the characters in the book with those in big cities. As the author writes that human nature is the same everywhere – whether one lives in Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, or this sleepy little hill town.

Best Quote from Welcome to Aaraampur

“All you need to do is dig a bit deep, and you’ll find Aaraampur wherever you live.”

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Neha Kirpal

Neha Kirpal

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