Saturday, May 27, 2017

"Mr. Iyer Goes to War"

Ryan Lobo is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker based in Bangalore.

His work has appeared in National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Boston Review, The Caravan, and Bidoun Magazine.

Lobo applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Mr. Iyer Goes to War, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Lurching to the bow, and with great effort, Bencho uses the punting pole to steer the boat away from slick, jagged boulders as Iyer holds onto the mast of the hurtling boat. It is several minutes of pure terror but then the river slows, widening into a plain.

The rain reduces to a steady downpour. Grateful for their safe passage they travel for some hours, finishing the cooked food, which Bencho scrapes from the dish with a teaspoon.

'We shall rest the night at a town,' Bencho says, hoping, poling the boat with renewed vigor at the thought of hot food and a dry bed, as Iyer sits at the bow, wrapped in a tarpaulin that chatters in the rain.

The boat passes under an old crumbling stone bridge some thirty feet high, a hole where the brass plaque naming its builder was once held. A flock of fruit bats hang underneath it, protected from the rain, clicking away.

Hearing a woman’s scream, Iyer’s head springs from within the tarpaulin. Bencho rolls his eyes.

'Sir, just because people scream doesn’t mean…' begins Bencho, already dreading where this might go.

Accompanying the scream is the sound of music.

Chillaaoo aur chillaaoo ...yahan se tumhari awaaz kiseeko bhi sunayi nahin degi ... ab tumhe bhagwan bhi bachaa nahin sakta.

'A scream, Bencho”

'It’s a movie, sir.'

'No Bencho, a scream is a scream, no matter where it comes from.'

'No sir, it’s a scream from a movie. That’s why there is music playing.'

'Bencho, I hear a celestial choir,” Iyer says, his face relaxing, reaching for his staff. 'They call me to action.'

'Sir, there is no celestial choir.' Bencho pulls at the engine’s choke.

'Only a true brahmachari can hear music like that,' Iyer says, throwing off the tarpaulin, and leaping to his feet.
He refuses to be a dying old man and instead aspires to be a hero.

Dispatched to a home for the dying in the sacred city of Varanasi, Lalgudi Iyer spends his days immersed in scripture. When an accident leaves him with concussion, he receives a vision of his past incarnation - he was the mythological warrior Bhima, known for his strength and integrity. Convinced of his need to continue Bhima's mission and believing himself to be a brahmachari or 'seeker of the truth' he embarks on an epic adventure down the sacred Ganges with the help of his trusted companion Bencho, an ambitious undertaker. Mr. Lalgudi Iyer lives his ideals regardless of outcome, charging the monsters of his time both imaginary and real, and though crushed repeatedly, rises from the ashes. He was inspired in part by Don Quixote. On page 69 Iyer hears a scream from a television mounted in a car. He imagines that a damsel is in distress contrary to what his down to earth companion thinks.
Visit Ryan Lobo's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mr. Iyer Goes to War.

Writers Read: Ryan Lobo.

--Marshal Zeringue