A bildungsroman of sorts, Gaurav Sharma’s semi-autobiographical Gone are the Days traces his journey, in life, from a small town in Bihar to Delhi and Canada thereafter.
What makes the book worth the read, and it is not its language, is the fact that it effortlessly weaves in the story of a small town boy as he discovers his ambitions, makes friends, acquaintances, loses them all the while memories pile up one after the other, journeys are made and life goes on. His determination to control time, rule over it and create his own destiny is what forms the crux of the book.
Gaurav Sharma, a self-proclaimed atheist (his book cover informs us) says that he is not much sociable, is reserved, blunt and meditative by temperament, and these are traits we discover in his protagonist as well.
The novel, which starts in media res (in the middle) sees our protagonist gearing up for an oral exam to help him shift to distant shores, and it is during this assessment, he tells the examiner his life story.
What works for Gone are the Days and Gaurav is the fact that the story seems to be too plausible to question. The protagonist’s zeal to achieve something in life, coupled with instances from daily existence, moments with friends he fondly recalls later, and his simplicity, inculcated from his small town joint family make for a riveting and often spell-binding read.
However, what falls short is the language to a large extent. One might contest that the tone of the book requires that sort of colloquial touch but one cannot deny that it is often the beauty of words that makes or breaks a work of literature.
Sharma’s novel does build up on conflict, but none of them seem big enough to create that climactic moment that would make the book a great piece of literature.
Another question that might come to the mind while reading the 180-pager novel is that the author, all the while talking about the character, still manages to maintain a distance from his inner psyche. But in a world inundated with works that speak more of the within, than the without, it is somewhat a welcome change.
Having had said that, one cannot deny, that while at first one might start Gone are the Days with a bit of scepticism (rightfully so), the author’s narrative has a strange way of pulling in the reader into its own labyrinthine lanes of worlds and words that guarantees a second read, if not more.
And finally, of all the people who have been mentioned in the book by Gaurav Sharma, I wonder, what do his friends think of Gone are the Days....