Author– Vivek Kumar
Previous Works– To catch a smile, To Catch A Butterfly, Love, Me & Bullshit
It’s all just a fishbowl
you are sleeping inside
and when you wake up
it will be gone.
— The cloaked man.
Remembering childhood as it used to be before it was devoured by reality, this E-Book straddles the twin worlds – of an imaginative little boy and of the boarding school realities – in a rural India town. A heartfelt narration of teenage tales, of rebellion and romance, of friendship and alienation, ‘The Fishbowl’ recreates a surrealistic but real world. And if you look close enough, you will find a reflection of yourself in it, for no man or woman is untouched by the passage of time and its after-effect on childhood memories.
The Fishbowl – Story of the Storyteller by Vivek Kumar, is about a young boy’s life, as he leaves the comfort of his house and ventures into the world at a young age. The narration leads us through the exposure of his young mind to the various sets of people. Seeing his classmates, who even though his age, possess very different personalities. The young boy is able to relate to a few of them, and for some, he simply stays back and observes.
He starts seeing the various mundane activities of his school life, as something different. Incorporating his imagination into them, he sees them in a new light. His mind comes up with characters, and then he gives them a story and at times a purpose, which is often forgotten after the night’s affair.
His little imagination, plays with the boundaries of nightmares, shadowing his dreams and waking him up in cold sweat.
Like every growing child, Roshan experiences adolescence, along with it, comes curiosity and the loss of innocence to knowledge. This part of the story may fill the reader with nostalgia, because of its similarity to our own childhood. There were certain activities that the boys indulged in, of which I personally do not approve. But I also have no means of claiming that young boys do not behave that way. The possibilities are certain. There were instances where Roshan, could have embarked on a path that would deteriorate him eventually, but the circumstances did not favor. Those were a clear reminder to the reader, that Roshan, even if a little misled at that moment, was a pure soul.
The book will make the reader travel back in time and relive their own memories of school life. Our attractions as kids, and our fascination towards something new. Our curiosity and willingness to find the explanation for things we did not know. It all comes back. I remember myself, smiling fondly at some childish encounters as I was reading the book.
I liked the fishbowl approach as it gives a prequel vibe, where they reveal the main character’s back story. But I’m not sure if I can appreciate it, as the book is not a prequel and happens to be a standalone so far.
The book sports a cover with a child’s head in a fishbowl. It depicts the mind of Roshan, which stays within the boundaries he made for himself. The cover is surely a great choice and in fact makes the viewer curious about the content and the plot.
Ratings- 3.2 stars out of 5
The book can be a bit difficult to read. The narration is extremely passive and sometimes to make sense of certain paragraphs, re-reading is required.
The appearance of the cloaked man happens every now and then, but the purpose of his visit is still blurry to me. The evolution of the storyteller from the story-dweller was to be blamed entirely on the circumstance and society. The fishbowl was the place for Roshan, a safe and secure haven for him, which can also be his bubble. He stayed in his bubble and was happy and comfortable in it. He was forced to come out of the fishbowl when he realized how he had to struggle to strive in the world.
The character of the cloaked man seemed unnecessary, whatever the boy went through, the man had no part in it, it seemed like he was just a figment of the boy’s imagination, not a confidant with whom the boy could discuss his ideas, if not real. The boy was going to be out of the fishbowl, one way or another, the man did not save him, nor did he play any part in changing the boy’s fate. The character seemed like an addition that would provide enough reason to confuse a reader.
I would admit it took me a while to get my thoughts on this book together, I wanted to know the purpose of the boy’s imagination.
The boy’s imagination contributed nothing to the book’s plot, it could have been skipped altogether. The book could have been a sole coming of age story and I would say it would be more enjoyable.
The adventures of the boy in his head were a distraction for the reader which strays the reader from the path of the real storyline. One would spend too much time, trying to figure if there is another side to the story when all it is about is a kid’s transition from boyhood to adulthood.
The book is a good read no doubt, but it may test the patience of the reader, especially when it leads you on with a different expectation but ends up with another. You don’t understand where the book is headed until the last chapter. The last chapter truly throws the light on the book’s purpose and makes everything clear, but the narration makes it difficult for the reader to stay till the end.
It was a particular relief for me when I completed the book because most things fell into place. I was happy to know that the storyteller who was at first only living the story, had decided to take the reins in his own hands and the title started making sense. But what the ending also made me wonder was, will a reader have the patience to sit through the chapters, only to discover the ending which is worth it.
I appreciate books that provide an effortless reading. Books that make you turn pages in anticipation. Endings are important, but a book should also make the entire journey enjoyable for the reader. This is where the book fell short. The destination was beautiful but the journey could have been better.
You enjoy something more when your expectations are lived up to. It would be better if the reader is able to figure what to expect because so far I think some seasoned readers would be able to grasp the concept, while beginners will lose track, but then, seasoned readers have high expectations which the book’s uncertainty doesn’t deliver.
Reviewed by- Banaja Prakashini
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About the author-
Vivek Kumar is a Brand consultant based out of Mumbai. “The Fishbowl” is his fourth work of fiction. Film-making is his other pursuit. The author of ‘The Fishbowl’, Vivek Kumar, studied in a Government-funded boarding school, situated on the outskirts of a Tier-III city in Central India. Vivek Kumar ‘s earlier works are (1. To Catch A Smile – CinnamonTeal, 2008, 2. To Catch A Butterfly – PustakMahal, 2010, 3. Love, Me & Bullshit! – Srishti Publishers, 2012). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org