The debut novel of an ex-journalist and communication professional Vikas Joshi, 'My Name Is Cinnamon' is an ode to the struggles of an adopted boy presented in a simple and lively manner.
In times when the habits of book-reading among children have been taken over by the influence of technologically embedded gadgets and Indian writers have been swapped with foreign writers by parents who want to introduce their kids to Children's literature, Vikas Prakash Joshi's debut fiction, 'My Name is Cinnamon' is a simple yet powerful force that leaves its impact in just 186 pages through a trail of bright and vivid descriptions of various local corners of India.
Roshan Rishikesh Paranjape, known by the name 'Cinnamon,' is an adolescent who was adopted by his mother, a Bengali, and his father, a Maharashtrian. Living in Pune, Maharashtra, Cinnamon's life is predominantly influenced by Maharashtrian culture while also embracing Bengali influences. He attends an English-medium school where his peers often remind him of his adoption. Although Cinnamon understands that adoption is a natural part of life, he often wonders about his birth parents and what they might be like. This curiosity intensifies as he encounters multiple consecutive instances that spark a strong desire to uncover his roots, leading him to venture outside his home in search of answers.
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All 17 chapters of the book consist of elementary language that binds the readers throughout the book and keeps one intact with the story with multiple societal scenarios and emotions. Along with capturing the fitting and usual conversations among teenagers in schools, Mr. Joshi has also touched upon the nerve of students, frequent times, humorously and enough to give one the sight of the writings of the profoundly celebrated author R.K. Narayan. As a matter of fact, while talking with Local Samosa about the essence of humour used in the book, Mr. Joshi said, "I have put 'slapstick humour' at certain places in the book as kids of that age (referring to the age of Cinnamon, i.e., 12) like such kind of humour."
To balance the funny side, Joshi added a perfect blend of other sentiments in the book, much depictable even through the cover that portrays life in a village and among it, an enthusiastic boy - now that you know - Cinnamon, full of life. While the eccentric font and colour of the book are enough to take the book in hand, a few conversations and dialogues, like Cinnamon accepting his identity and saying, "If I am adopted, there is nothing I can do about it," touches upon the severity of the story.
Moreover, the daily hassles and complications of a middle-class family and the repercussions of the same on the children have also been well outlined in the book. The author has also well comprehended the sorrows of the widows belonging to the marginalized sections of society and the poor infrastructure of tourism in the country very closely. This apart, the book also handles lesser-known diseases like 'Usher Syndrome' from proximity, and Mr. Joshi has dealt with the topic well without letting the book's mood be tampered with.
On similar lines, apart from its captivating story, what stands out the most in this book is the lively scenes from the streets of cities like Pune and Kolkata. Not only does the book give the existent references of the visuals but also the traditions and the families of Marathi and Bengali communities, with a special focus on detailing the cuisines of both communities. A distinctive light has been cast on the tribal communities living in the Nandurbar district in the northwest part of Maharastra in the latter half of the book. From the attire worn by the tribals to the food and the infrastructure of Nandurbar, Joshi has not left a single stone unturned in transporting us to the place with its dynamic scenes and lives. A much-needed credit also goes to the black-and-white illustrations by Niloufer Wadia, whose work will keep meeting you in the book, and even without colours, you can envision the striking and vibrant scenes sketched in the book.
Even though a few of the instances replicate themselves in the book, making it a bit monotonous, Joshi's way of holding a grip on the story and depicting the lifelike emotions binds again in the thread of a looping chain of reading. While some scenes tickle you a lot, a few are capable enough to let the tears roll down your cheeks a little, and by unifying both in the book, Mr. Joshi has well engraved a fascinatingly engrossing journey where one meets oneself.