BOOK TITLE: Half Pants, Full Pants: Real-Life Tales from Shimoga
AUTHOR: Anand Suspi
GENRE: Biographical stories
NUMBER OF PAGES: 221
SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank The Book Club and the author for this review copy
Half Pants Full Pants is a sort of childhood autobiography set in Shimoga of the 70s and 80s. Given the era and milieu that he grew up in, it carries a flavor similar to that of Malgudi Days. All the characters in the book are real and most of them are still in Shimoga, of course now in their mid-40s. Quite a few are from prominent families and are now active and important members of Shimoga. The book vividly captures the real childhood adventures of this generation of people in Shimoga. It’s a glorious reminiscence as well as a tribute to this wonderful town.
When this book came up as a review copy, the title was the first thing that intrigued me. With a deeper significance, the title that suggested a shift from childhood to adulthood via adoloscence made me want to pick the book up and read the summary. And the summary actually cinched it for me. Basically a lover of nostalgic tales that my father brought me up with, anything about the 70s and 80s interests me immediately. Half Pants Full Pants promised stories of a childhood in that era, making sure I read it as soon as I got my hands on it. Malgudi Days is one of my most favorite works of Narayan, and I began reading this book with the hope that Shimoga would be the next Malgudi.
Half Pants Full Pants is a very refreshing tale. It stood out in my mind because it was different from the usual trope of stories that flood the market these days. The nostalgic feeling that accompanied the stories this book ensured that I did not put the book down once I began reading. The tales are split into two parts, the Half Pant tales, and the Full Pant tales, each dealing with a different period of the author's life in Shimoga. This book brought smiles, and in some place, happy grins at the innocence of youth in a place that was far removed from the pollution of urban culture, making the experiences endearing in many 'stories'.
The thing that attracted me the most about the independent stories was the unique titles that showed the world from the perspective of a kid wearing a half pant. There was a raw, direct feel to the stories that is usually missing in the doctored tales that undergo heavy altering for publishing. The stories definitely won in the nostalgia department, bringing to the minds of the reader the life in a random Indian village in the 70s and 80s. The small introduction to Shimoga made the stories more relatable, already bringing in a Malgudi like feeling. The names' significance extend to the splitting of the tales into two sets, the age where kids wear half pants and then the age of full pants (from teenage onwards) which is technically a huge shift that made the boys into men. It is in little things like these that the book held my attention, bringing a sure smile.
The narration was on point, gently mixing humour with a raw bluntness. But since this was not the set of tales actually written during adoloscence, the language could have been a bit more refined. There were no major errors in the language and the simple language did make the reading easy. The words fit the tone of the stories well. There is no 'plot' but there are a lot of factors including the relevance to the time period (that the book is set in) that worked in its favour. As far as biographical tales go, this book was the perfect amalgamantion of interesting stories, easy language and unpretentious tone that made it a delight to read.
Half Pants Full Pants scores in the areas of narration, relevance and taking us back to the time it is set in. It would make all the readers relate to the stories, and bring out happy memories of being kids in those days before the distractions of internet, television and mobile phones that take up most of our time these days. The book was a breezy, heartwarming read, making sure it brought the nods, smiles and the laughs at the right places. Even the vernacular bits in between that included the dialogues between the parents and the child did not look forced and helped in the nativity factor. The half pant tales were my most favorite part. The tone was set in the 5 paise chappathi and from there the book told me what to expect. And I was not disappointed with what it delivered.
The book can be read more than once, surely with favorites that can be read over and over again, never failing to bring a smile on our faces. The simplicity and the nativity are what worked in its favour. While it cannot be denied that the book is best enjoyed by someone who has actually lived in that time period, or has heard tales of it while growing up, the book still is an amazing read for anyone who would enjoy reading about life in small town India in the 70s and 80s before globalisation took over and made every village a similar fascimile of the same mould. The author has cleverly crafted the book to appeal to anyone who reads it, no matter their favorite genre. Having such an interesting childhood probably made this an amazing collection. Overall, a book I would remember for some time to come, not only for its brilliace, but for the escape it provided into the uncomplicated era and the nostalgia it brought to me.
WHAT I LIKED:
- The book achieved what it set out to do.
- The titles (both of the stories and the book itself) were apt and fitting.
- Scored well in the areas of nostalgia and unassuming humour.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
- The language could have been a bit more refined. It was simple, probably aimed at suiting the mood of the stories.
- The cover picture could have had a bit more interesting, the stories had that potential.
- Often, I forgot that the stories were biographical, with the Malgudi like tinge to them. Not a complaint, just an observation.
Surely a book to read, remember and take back from. More than once.
EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback
PRICE Free on Kindle Unlimited, Rs. 177 for Paperback
BOOK LINKS: Amazon