Top positive review
Searching for identity
18 January 2017
Manju and Radha Kumar live in the slums of Bombay/Mumbai with their overbearing and sometimes violent father, Mohan. Mohan has a vision for his sons, that they will be professional cricketers, and not just that,that they will match and surpass the greats, Tendulkar, Shastri and Gavaskar. To foster their greatness, Mohan enforces a strict regime of practice, diet, and clean living.
When both are spotted by talent scout, Tommy Sir, and taken into a development programme financed by wealthy dilettante Anand Mehta, it seems that Mohan's dreams are to be fulfilled. However things start to unravel when it becomes clear that the greater cricketer, not his favourite, Radha, but the younger and smaller Manju. However,while Manju is extravagantly talented, he isnot at all certain that he wants to dedicate his life to the crash of leather on willow. He is fascinated by science in general, and by the forensics of CSI in particular. When he makes the acquaintance of the wealthy Muslim fellow pupil, JA, a further world of sensuality is opened to him.
At its basic level, Selection Day is a coming of age story set against the background of filial competition. It is the story of Manju's journey from unquestioning acceptance of his father's direction and his brother's superiority, to a position where he is developing his own identity and questioning the very fundamentals of his existence. Does he even like cricket. As a story of adolescent growth and sexuality in a sporting context, it has similarities with Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas.
Selection Day is about a wider search for identity than Manju's. It is about a search for an Indian identity. Tommy Sir, typifies a post colonial world where the British influence remains strong, whereas Anand Mehta leans more towards a brasher American spirit. This fight for cultural ascendancy is also experienced by Manju and JA who are tempted away from cricket to play baseball with a group of street children.
Selection Day is very much a post-modern novel, refusing to provide a tidy denouement, and leaving much in the air at its ending.
Overall this is an interesting, evocative novel, but not one with which I felt massively engaged and I the end,the very postmodern-is made it a little unsatisfying.