Book review: Half Pants Full Pants – Times of India (blog)

Do you belong to that generation that grew up with a black and white television that offered only one channel – Doordarshan. I used to wait for Wednesdays just so that I could watch Chitrahaar. A string of songs from Hindi movies would be played for half an hour. It was truly disgusting to have someone come home on a Sunday evening. I would sulk at the thought of missing the weekly movie that played on Sundays. Cars came in three varieties. To be able to listen to songs on a cassette player, you had to have a pencil handy. Was your childhood as deprived as mine?

They say, revenge is a dish best served cold. It means that revenge is best carried out, not fresh after the insult occurred, but after enough time has passed so that the target won’t see it coming. The same holds true for childhood. Childhood is best enjoyed only as an adult. That is exactly why “Half Pants Full Pants” is that kind of book. It is all about childhood and growing up in small town India. (Disclosure: the author is a friend)

The debut novel of adman Anand Suspi (on Twitter @SuspiAnand) is set in Shimoga, Karnataka. His world is endearing in its simplicity.

“At one end of Shimoga was the bus stand. This was dusty and dirty and noisy. At another end was the railway station. This became dirty and noisy three times a day when the trains arrived and departed.”

At eight and a half, he lives with his parents and elder brother Sriram in the railway colony. Nothing much happens in Shimoga. But, a lot happens in Suspi’s life. He gets to ride in a railway engine with his father’s colleagues. How does the railway engine turn by itself when the tracks bend? He has regrets that his father is doing the uncool job. Why could he have not become a railway engine driver instead of becoming the guard of the goods train? The thoughts race through his mind. He has to share his adventures with his friends – Vishak, Amogha, Niju, Giddi to name a few.

When Vishak loses his daschund Jimmy, the friends are just as despondent. They swear to find the missing pet. Niju finally discovers the missing canine who also barks away in excitement at the impending reunion.

“The four of us were standing in a circle and if we had tails, we would have caused muscle injuries with our wagging.”

What happened after that has to be read to be believed. Suffice it to say, finding Jimmy was not the only adventure that Suspi’s gang of four had. Just so you know, Giddi (means someone small) was the only one “smaller than Jimmy”. Giddi as the blindly devoted disciple to the Guru (Suspi) is a beautifully etched character. I wish there was more of him in the stories.

If you have read Malgudi Days, you will love reading Half Pants Full Pants. It will make you think of your childhood. In retrospect, those wonder years were truly magical. This book captures the magic of wearing half pants and the exasperation of dealing with adults who wear full pants. He says, “The book is set against a backdrop of the ’70s and ’80s. Apart from the excesses of childhood madness and adventures that we indulged in, the book captures nuances of social mores, traditions and mindsets of South Indian Brahmins in a small town.”

Can this book be categorized as a children’s book? Of course not. Childhood is too precious to be wasted on children. This book is for the adult who wears full pants to work every day and trades them for the comfort of shorts on weekends. This book is comfort food for the soul. It is a fabulous addition to the bookshelf called “Indian Fiction”. Don’t miss it.


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