While reading ‘Wanderers, All’, there was a constant thought in my mind if this book leaves its readers empowered with knowledge & understanding at the turn of final pages of the book. Or if the readers will highlight quotations and twist corners of important pages; but I reached to a conclusion, as I finished the book, that even pearls go unnoticed when they are in abundance. The author has beautifully recreated the old Bombay city of 1900s era when it was infected with plague and communal riots. Retelling the stories of her ancestors, she has talked about her great-great grandfathers and grandmothers with a bit of realism that is really appreciable. It was the time when females were not given enough respect but Achrekar’s female characters are embodied with sense of self-respect & self-dependency. She has even shown that despite progressive thinking and educated mindsets, the women of that era were cursed with social evils like difference between girl & boy child. With respect to these attributes, it’s a rare book that talks about the Mumbai metropolis of 1900. The author has painstakingly researched & shown us the lives of people that lived in this certain era. The characters are developed like real human beings, affected with real like emotions and challenges to Indian lifestyle in British Raj. The book encapsulates the beginning of freedom movement in the region of Maharashtra.
However, the problem lies with the length of the book. It’s a part memoir & part narrative of new age wanderers, stretched to 420 pages with dedicated chapters on Marathi plays and references to songs & poems. The first seven chapters introduce ‘Kinara’ – that’s possibly writer playing herself. She is young independent unmarried girl of 35, who wanders around the world. In these chapters, you travel along with Kinara and literally feel the weather of Goan beaches. She shares her philosophy about love, home, traveling and cosmopolitan lives. She is up to tread on the paths that her ancestors have once treaded. After brief intro to Kinara, the book goes on telling about three brothers, who were the top heads of Khedekar clan which she too belong. In these pages, readers feel the bit of adventure as it’s about nobleman and three sculptor brothers, who successfully made their fortune by impressing a king.
In case of books with parallel narratives, the risk of losing readers’ attention lies with author’s capacity of keeping both narratives attention-grabbing. Ashwin Sanghi has beautifully used this pattern in ‘The Krishna Key’ and Paulo Coelho did this in ‘Eleven Minutes’ (though, it goes with a main plot and sub plot of the story). Ashwin Sanghi has beautifully kept both narrations interesting and of page turner quality. At one side, he was narrating the quest of an ultimate weapon in modern time and secondary narration was about the Mahabharata war. The length of each chapter was equal. If it is not then chapters of secondary narrative were shorter than primary ones. So, the reader keeps on reading on and on, anticipating what is going to happen next. In ‘Wanderers, All’, the first few chapters are set in modern age and then the book goes on retelling the lives of author’s ancestors, lived in the 19th century. There is a certain part of the novel where it loses its readers like when there is a sole chapter on a Marathi play and two page long poems. The reader can still be carried forward if the story set in modern time hooks on.
Still, it can be said that this is a rare book and the readers should be patient enough to know all the intricate details about the people lived in the 19th century. Some books are like journeys, they bring you to distant places, make you meet new people while keeping you at the comfort of your home. So, it’s a good book but it could have been better if concluded in fewer pages than it is.
Correction: The reviewer pays sincere thanks to the author for reading this review and posting comment about the mistakes that earlier version of this review carried.