This three-part novel is a tongue-in-cheek account of the travails of a journalist in and around New Delhi. The protagonist Manush’s talent and sincerity, far from being rewarded, is seen as a threat by his bosses and colleagues as he job-hops from Noida (1995) to Delhi (2005) to Gurgaon (2015). The situations are startling and unexpected. The character has been crafted not for a stand-alone novel, but as the protagonist of a series.
In Noida, the magazine Manush works for is a dead-end job where office intrigues and feudal behaviour patterns leave little room for professional values or goals. On a personal level, his relations with his wife are strained, and he has an extra-marital affair.
In Delhi, he works for the top-selling newspaper where good work is done despite insidious games played by the editors and owner. He is trying to patch up with his wife, who has come back after a six-year separation.
In Gurgaon, the website he works for and the city in which it is based are futuristic, globalised. Manush’s former lover is the director of the company. The world has changed drastically in the 20 years since he started his career.
Inevitably for a first novel, the material is drawn from first-time author Manjula Lal’s own experiences in about 20 news organisations. It is marked by droll humour, unconventional gender relations and piquant situations. The overall sense is of professionals being pawns in bigger games but soldiering on, clinging on to their sense of purpose and professional ethics against all odds. We get glimpses of the messy personal lives and existential issues but the news imperative always overtakes moments of introspection, never allowing the pace of the narrative to flag. If the novel succeeds, a whole series can be written using the same characters.