Astounding Age of Anxiety by Indranil Banerjie

This is a novel about a boy, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee finding his place in the world, facing the changes and grasping at what life throws at him. Age of Anxiety is set in the era when our country was still learning and accepting the changes Independence had brought. Sarto, is an only child and this novel takes us from the time he is in school to the time he finds himself at an juncture where he realises that he has finally found a place for himself and what he wants form life. It is also a coming of age story, taking the reader to a bygone era when life was both simpler and difficult at the same time. I have shared a few of the lines that express some of the elements that make this book a good read.

“He had to confront the unknown, listen, watch, assess and then act.”

It starts off with his experiences at school, an Anglo-Indian School still clinging to its illustrious past. I found reading these like revisiting my own school. There is something comforting yet exciting about school and Indranil depicts it very well. Sarto and his anxiety is what the novel is all about. How he is dictated by his troubles, inadequacies and apprehensions.  

“Sometimes you should stand up for what is right, even if it means being a bad boy”

The part where he is finding his profession, lucky enough to have no pressure to just work but to find his true calling is a lesson. He works his way into writing, finding his calling and a balance between just work and something he is passionate about too.

“It was an awe inspiring spectacle of steel and concrete structures reaching out from the bowels of the earth to the sky, a design stolen from some celestial architect and hammered and shaped by humans.”

 When he visits the Steel factory is my favourite part, it took me to the time I did the project work, factory visits and industrial training for my post graduation. Indranil has written a balanced book highlighting each stage and aspect of Sarto’s life as he yearns to shed his anxiety and trepidation.
The language is the biggest pull of this book. The author writes with an exceptional flow, no errors, no words that jar or don’t fit in. The language mirrors the age for which the novel has been penned. The author knows his craft and uses this to his advantage. As the book progresses and Sarto ‘grows up’ so does his language and his way of expression. Another thing is that even thought the book uses a  few big words, even I had to look up a couple; still the language is easy to understand.
I will be honest, a memoir is like reading a person’s life story and unless it is highly embellished with ‘fiction’ or is about an controversial person it will have some part where you just want to skip through however I can safely say that Age of Anxiety has a flow, a story that unfolds slowly, bit by bit yet kept me interested. At each page Sarto was the kid you wanted to root for and that is what is special about this book. You find a glimpse of your own childhood, teenage or youthful innocence in these pages.

“He was not alone with his angst but shared one that throbbed through the arteries of his country.”

The time when the Raj Hangover was so strong and Sarto was like the 70’s flower child – smoking, drinking, marijuana/ ganja and that hint of first love. Free yet restrictions of a post colonial India are so well expressed. I found the parts devoted to smoking pot very interesting and detailed; typical of how it is shared and used. How boys bond over something so basic and liberating, no wonder it is still so popular!!

The rush of first love and Nayantara; I just loved her name and the changes she brought in Sarto. This was by far one of the absorbing chapters in this book. Just as their relation changed so did they and I liked the fact that the author gave the requisite importance to ‘first love’ in the final awaking of Sarto as a man who found his spot under the sun!!

“He felt alive, afloat, effervescing and usually breathless.”

The book is meant to be savored and read as you reminisce about the golden olden days. A perfect book to revisit those carefree yet anxious days of looking inward and out, searching for the real and true you!

(I received a copy of the book from the author for a fair and unbiased review.)

Indranil Banerjie (1960-present) was born in Calcutta, India. The son of a military officer, he grew up in cantonments in different parts of the country and was exposed to the country’s diversity from an early age. He has been writing ever since he graduated from Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1980. He spent more than a decade as a journalist before going on to head a national security focussed think tank, SAPRA India Foundation, for sixteen years till 2011. Currently, he travels, writes and takes photographs and is working on two books. “Age of Anxiety” is his first novel.

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