The sentimental yearning for our school days that author Vivek Kumar creates in his novel The Forever Years is utterly recognizable for someone who has grown up in the 90s. I am not a boy and my hostel life was during my college years but having an understanding of the rural and cultural aspects that are prevalent in India, more than half of the things in the story felt relatable as we follow the very young Rosan into his journey to adulthood.
Vivek Kumar takes the reader back to a time when teachers had no qualms about using a cane on a child; when entertainment came in the form of a TV aerial that had to be tuned every 5 minutes; when hand-pumps had to be pushed a million times to draw a bucket of water, a time when there was no dearth of freedom and space but there was paucity in the facilities available to a child. The author carefully sketches Rosan and his loneliness and the palpable sense of isolation he feels among his friends causing his mind to conjure different and altered realities to his predicament. His need to belong is so strong that he becomes sad about receiving good marks for his board exams. The dreams or correctly said the nightmare he visualizes is touching, showing glimpses of a young boy’s fractured mind. The Cloaked man that haunts him into his adulthood is kind of like the conscience that forces him to seek and find his individuality.
Don’t get me wrong, the book with its brilliant title is not all sad, the simple joys of boyhood, the mischief and pranks they play on each other, the funny nicknames the boys christens the teachers with and even amongst themselves, all these small snippets are nicely done by the author. I loved the scene where one student instigates the others to fight and demand their rights, getting me to reminisce about a similar event in my life. I did wish the author had concentrated on developing his secondary characters in a more detailed way, there are some endearing characters in the story though all seem floating on the periphery without any depth to them. The dialogues also could do with some improvement as the camaraderie of the boys sometimes seems missing from the story in certain places.
The title of the book had changed from THE FISHBOWL to THE FOREVER YEARS and even though, the fishbowl is an apt title for the book as the author compares Rosan’s experiences to being inside a fishbowl, I think to convey the wholesome nature of the hostel life, the FOREVER YEARS is the perfect title.
Pick this book for a walk back into your lost innocence and relive your memories.
Many thanks to the author for the chance to read and review this book. All opinions are expressed voluntarily.
Rosan, a suburban boy, is admitted to a village-based boarding school by his father whom he detests. The school with its oppressive rules and varied characters, namely the students and teachers, forces Rosan to adapt. But in the process, he loses something precious, for which he must return to retrieve. The world of boarding school, the age of adolescence and city that everyone will, eventually, have to leave. The book takes you to childhood and leaves you with a few lessons. Sweet like childhood, bitter like adulthood and inevitable like growing up, The Forever Years by Vivek Kumar captures what is often lost behind in the transition.
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