Book Review: My Friend Sancho

Dear Jasmine Shah Varma,

I just finished reading, correction smiling, through Amit Varma’s debut book, ‘My Friend Sancho’ In his acknowledgments Amit Varma credits you for the existence of this book, and adds that if the reader doesn’t like it, it’s your fault. So I guess if the reader (me) did like the book, it’s your fault too, eh? Which is why I am writing to you.

Lizards creep me out, and the one crawling on the cover kind of kept me from picking up the book for the longest. However, I ingeniously covered the lizard on the cover with a cover of my own, a picture of a gorgeous hunk if you’re interested, and began acquainting myself with Abir and Muneeza.

Abir’s character endeared him self to me almost instantly and I delightedly chuckled at his exaggerated imaginary dialogue sprinkled through the book. What I liked most about Abir, apart from his wisecracks, was that he comes across as a regular guy who doesn’t try too hard. Muneeza made a good read too, but Abir managed to overshadow her completely. The other character who I enjoyed reading about was, Inspector Thombre. I liked how the author got the typical ‘Mumbai-Inspector dialect’ down pat, and appreciated how he subtly painted the oft-misunderstood policeman in a very different shade, without ridiculing him in the process. The lizard on the cover made fleeting, though funny, guest appearances.

Not having read the authors blog, ‘India Uncut’, before I picked up the book, I had no baggage leading me towards having expectations. However, I was curious to know how the author would handle a, leaning-towards-a-cliché-if-not-handled-right, reporter looking for a sensational story premise. Clean, intelligent writing, liberally laced with humor had me speeding through the 217 pages of the book in a single sitting.

A seemingly quick and light story, its only after you finish reading the book do you realize that serious issues, like the Hindu-Muslim divide and police encounters, have been deftly dealt with by the author, astutely leaving it to the audience to take a stand on them as they wish to without moralizing on the issue himself.

This book seems like a trailer to something bigger coming next. Jasmine Shah Varma, could you will the next book into existence quickly, please?

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