The Retro Man by Amit Pandey-A review

Amit Pandey/Fiction Contemporary


My rating:★★★★☆

[★-lost me ★★-average ★★★-worth a read ★★★★-excellent ★★★★★-amazing]


Taciturn, loner and honestly quite a bore…Neel lived with his clichéd views of life belonging to some bygone era when humility was a virtue, courage was unobtrusive, strength was courteous and movie heroes were well dressed gentlemen.”

The habitually reticent Neel is maneuvered into sharing the secrets of his queer yet happy existence with a friend who happens to be an antithesis of Neel’s idyllic views about life. Although the man can’t stand Neel’s idealistic, old-fashioned ways, he must bear with Neel’s hackneyed wisdom for one whole night to fulfill a personal agenda. The story unfolds in an ensuing dialogue that spans faith, destiny and most of all relationships…within a family and with the Almighty. Neel unravels how he eventually found his footing in life after a turbulent childhood and then used a shattering personal failure to turn all the negativity in his life into a mantra for lifelong happiness. Tempted, Neel’s friend can’t wait to use that mantra to find some happiness for himself and soon finds an opportunity to do so; but are the results up to his expectations…?

Narrated by an unnamed friend of the main protagonist, Neel, The Retro Man explores love, family, and relationships across all fronts, with yourself, with your immediate family, extended relations, humanity in general and with God. Set in contemporary times, in an unnamed city with the characters doing unnamed jobs, the focus is solely on the themes of the novel.
Neel is always happy and has a relaxed attitude towards life which irks the narrator, his friend, who has totally opposite ideas on how things should be done. Neel is a happy-go-lucky, optimistic, and forward looking guy with faith in destiny and the universe while his friend has a more pessimistic view on life. On the night of Neel’s 15th marriage anniversary, his friend asks him what exactly happened that changed, or rather, shaped this outlook. What follows is a night full of recollections from the past on Neel’s part and debating each aspect on his friend’s part. While Neel’s childhood and early years weren’t exactly rosy, they did shape his character. After these rumination, his friend decides to give his ideals a try, finding nothing theoretically wrong in them.
The characters are finely drawn, though not much is given about them, and Amit Pandey makes us feel for each of them. Many Indians especially may connect with his career and future defined by his gender and his siblings by his parents. What is refreshing is that the society is not shown to degrade women, instead they have been taught to respect women. On the other hand, the novel is replete with cliches, possibly because Neel’s character is just one big cliche living a rosy existence. A few more details about the characters might also have worked. Overall it is a fine read.


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