Father Son And The Cigarette by Abhiman Nimain is a banal narrative but holds you for human emotions

The only grip in the book, along with the background of the author is the varied empathetic human sentiments that paint the modern lifestyles, even though the book is set in the 1980s-'90s.

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The familiar storyline of a young lad following the "wrong path" under peer pressure before eventually finding the "right" track, common in countless Bollywood movies and many Indian novels, continues with the novel Father, Son and The Cigarette. This self-published debut by Abhiman Nimain marks a way for the security-head-turned-author into the literary world. It offers hope for potential future stories from an author who has recently been bringing fresh narratives to films and web series.

Set in Orissa (now Odisha), the book explores the life of a middle-class family during the 1980s, focusing on Manavendra Das, the protagonist. The novel narrates his journey from childhood to youth, depicting his transition from a "bright" student to a "struggling teen." Manav's journey begins in the coastal state of Odisha and extends to Maharashtra, where he enrolls in a private engineering college after failing to clear the IIT entrance exam. Although Manav excelled in school, he struggles to pass his college exams, and his childhood dreams take a backseat.


The transition in Manav's life makes his father, Satyadev Das, a professor at a regional engineering college, despondent about his son's future. Satyadev's fears about Manav smoking cigarettes come true, though his greater fear of "smoking drugs" does not materialize. Baffled by these developments, Satyadev ceases to care about Manav. Subsequently, Manav's life undergoes yet another change when he visits Bombay (now Mumbai) in a bid to become an actor, but what follows is far from what he dreamt of.

The book has allowed for simple language throughout the three chapters where Abhiman Nimain aims his best to draw references from his own life and the characters he has met. Talking to Local Samosa, he had said, "You find glimpses of my life and my journey as well." It is true in the context that the author has himself declared the book to be a "self-help novel" where the journey to being addicted to smoking cigarettes is traced through that of the protagonist.

Nimain, who has been a screenwriter for films and web series, has worked to make the book entrancing through the use of common lingo and multiple slang terms, making it relatable to young readers. Additionally, the book appeals through its depiction of certain human emotions, particularly in the context of feelings for others, crafting a compelling narrative about modern romance and self-reflection. In various instances, the protagonist is described as talking to himself about both good and bad situations.

While emotions catch attention in the crippling plot, one cannot ignore the loose points in terms of writing - with multiple errors - and the debilitating storyline. The story begins by focusing on the relationship between the father and son, but this theme seems to be neglected in the second half of the book. Towards the end, the book merely becomes a step-by-step solution to get rid of addiction while giving no space to the beginning plot with "the father" and the career ambitions of Manav, the lead.

The book also lacks in drawing convincing character sketches and imageries for both backgrounds and scenes, which might just come naturally for the author trying his hand at writing the first novel but it loses the grasp.  Additionally, the novel includes problematic and misogynistic portrayals of women, particularly those from cities and the film industry, highlighted through comments on their clothes and attitudes as perceived by Manav and other characters. Furthermore, it perpetuates stereotypes about certain Indian regions, with clichéd depictions of characters from Odisha and northern areas. However, viewing these descriptions through the protagonist’s perspective leaves room for some ambiguity regarding their accuracy.

In the ailing description of the story, characters and the flow of the plot, the book, if nothing, surely stands true to the second part of its name: 'The Story of a Pathfinder' but only by showing a path back to the non-smoking phase of the protagonist as no other "paths" have been considered and justified well. In such a situation, Nimain's book, perhaps, only keeps the readers intact with the quest to see the work of an author who inspires through his own journey of becoming an author. He, well, rationalises his journey with what appears in the first few pages - "A baby step at a time. Can Take you to a mile.....Can make you fly for miles."

new novels by Indian authors Abhiman Nimain