The Debt Collector’s Due is a fascinating read. It has the ingredients of a slick Bollywood thriller. Bengaluru born, 29-year-old Adhirath Sethi’s debut novel is fast- paced and written in an easy, free-flowing manner. The author himself has a distinguished educational background, boarding at London’s prestigious Eton school followed by graduating from the London School of Economics. But Adhirath defines his years at LSE as “not being too significant.” “Blame it on my years in Eton. The institution is large, with an extensive campus. LSE, on the other hand, is in the middle of the city and just has that kind of an impressionable flavour. So the comparison was purely from that perspective,” says Adhirath, in an affable tone.
Obviously he is at a far remove from his dropout protagonist, Samay. But we wonder whether Adhirath identifies with the restlessness that Samay portrays. “It’s a fear that most people in the 22 to 29-year-old age group have about life passing by you. While I have never really been in that situation, I was just feeding off that fear. Samay’s life stems from a sense of bad luck and hopelessness and leads to a typical situation where everything goes wrong”, explains Adhirath.
The Debt Collector’s Due is a classic example of how you can be fortune’s favourite and lose it all for want of ambition and focus. The language is simple, evocative and devoid of pompous terminology. Today, with authors attempting to impress the readers with their extensive vocabulary, does Adhirath believe his efforts will be appreciated? “I hope so. It is difficult to gauge. So far the feedback has been from my close circle of friends and family, who will not be too critical of my efforts. But objectively they have found my book to be a light, easy read,” he says.
The book disproves all notions of debt collectors as being goons with a propensity for beating people up. Samay, in contrast, is a passive, smiling character who annoys you more with his persistence. “I run a manufacturing unit in Bengaluru and I entered into the debt collector’s world by default. We were having some issues with payments and I was introduced to a guy in Kolkata who recovered money in a gentle but firm manner,” he recollects.
When Adhirath’s two main protagonists — Samay and his collegemate, Amrita — meet, they bond well despite having little in common. Amrita is ambitious and worldly wise, Samay is a vagabond at heart. This love story is doomed even before it takes off but does find its bearing eventually. And you wonder whether it was necessary. Pat comes the answer, “I’m a romantic at heart. Initially I did wonder whether I should leave it to the reader’s imagination, but then I changed my mind as it’s a coming of age story,” says Adhirath and readily admits to having moved to Mumbai to pursue his then girlfriend (now wife), who also studied with him at LSE.
Getting back to Amrita’s character, a fashion journalist managing to get evidence against the drug don seems a tad unconvincing. He politely makes his point. “I don’t come from a world of journalism. But the way I see it, it’s about an individual who is well educated but her talent is not being optimised at the workplace. She finally manages to get an opportunity when she helps out a colleague and has more than adequate information at her disposal,” he adds.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Adhirath started working on his second novel as soon as he finished his debut book. “My second book is much more humorous and is set against the backdrop of the consulting industry. I have finished writing it and am now taking a relook at it.” he adds. We are already looking forward to his second book now!