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Selection Day Hardcover – 23 Aug 2016
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Aravind Adiga: Research makes it sound like hard work. It was lots of fun. Meeting young batsmen, coaches, talent scouts, and travelling up and down Mumbai to see school cricket matches being played in different venues. Standing in the rain to watch matches being played in the Kanga League, Mumbai s famous monsoon league --By A Customer on 18 august 2016
Aravind Adiga: Mohan Kumar is a real man, or rather, a composite of many real cricketing fathers. Just visit any maidan where poor boys are playing cricket and you will find a Mohan Kumar, on the sidelines, shouting at his son or sons. For thousands of poor men like Mohan Kumar today, the obsession is to escape poverty by turning their sons into the next Sachin Tendulkars. They control every aspect of their sons lives, from nutrition to training to studies, even down to hair-style. Though the original desire, to escape poverty through cricket, is admirable, over time these fathers develop an unnatural urge to control their sons bodies and minds. --By A Customer on 20 august 2016
About the Author
Aravind Adiga was born in 1974 in Chennai and grew up in Mangalore. He was educated at Columbia University in New York and Magdalen College, Oxford. His first novel, The White Tiger, won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2008. He is also the author of Last Man in Tower.
From the Publisher
A Conversation with Aravind Adiga
Aravind Adiga needs no introduction. Before he became a fulltime novelist, he had already established himself as a journalist of repute, contributing to publications such as Financial Times, Money, the Wall Street Journal and Time. His debut novel The White Tiger won the Man Book Prize in 2008. His latest novel, Selection Day, his third, transports readers to the infamous cricket grounds of Mumbai, where young cricketers are formed and more often broken. This is the story behind the story of what we see being played out on our television screens almost on a daily basis. An excerpt from an interview with the author.
Q. You have set Selection Day in heart of Mumbai’s cricketing district; a place with a rich history. Both your protagonists Manjunath and Radha originally hail from Karnataka; this is an interesting juxtaposition. What was the intention behind doing this? After all, Karnataka too has a great track record of producing world-class players, why did you choose to set the book specifically in Mumbai?
A. Aravind Adiga: I once asked a famous British writer why he was so desperate to succeed in America, and he replied: ‘There is no success like success in New York.’ Mumbai, the home of Sachin Tendulkar, still has a glamour that is unmatched by any other cricketing center in India. There is also a long tradition of people migrating from the villages of Karnataka to work in Mumbai, which continues to this day. Most of the restaurants in Mumbai, for instance, are owned and run by migrants from Mangalore. For a man like Mohan Kumar, the father of the two cricketers, a man with big dreams, there is no success like success in Mumbai
Q. What got you interested in the subject of Cricket? Why choose the gritty playgrounds of Mumbai’s famous and infamous clubs and associations as the backdrop for your story?
A. Aravind Adiga: I'll turn the question on its head: how can you not write about cricket if you live in India? Cricket’s financial, cultural, and social importance here are unmatched by that of any other sport in any other country. Even football isn’t this big in Brazil.
From the start, I knew that national-level cricket did not interest me. It was school cricket and club cricket, the story behind the story, the crucible where a young cricketer is formed, that would be the setting for my story.
Q. Would you call Selection Day a ‘coming of age’ story? While it falls outside the traditional spectrum of the genre, it is very much reminiscent of darker tales, such as say, ‘Catcher in the Rye’.
A. Aravind Adiga: There is a traditional literary genre, the bildungsroman, which portrays the growth and development of a young man. What I like to do is subvert this genre. Like ‘The White Tiger,’ my first novel, ‘Selection Day’ is a coming of age story that goes wrong. In the earlier novel, Balram Halwai attains manhood only through murder and betrayal. In ‘Selection Day,’ Manjunath Kumar, who should be the hero of the book, fails to become the hero in two senses: he fails both as a cricketer, and as a human being.
Q. What kind of research did you do for the book?
A. Aravind Adiga: ‘Research’ makes it sound like hard work. It was lots of fun. Meeting young batsmen, coaches, talent scouts, and travelling up and down Mumbai to see school cricket matches being played in different venues. Standing in the rain to watch matches being played in the Kanga League, Mumbai’s famous monsoon league.
Q. The narrative for Selection Day moves in a fractured fashion, one encounters ‘news bulletins’ over the course of the book, many of your chapters read like blog entries and editorials. What did you adopt this peculiar style of writing for the book? What are you trying to convey through it?
A. Aravind Adiga: For me, every new novel has to be an experiment of some kind, in theme and narrative style. Why keep writing the same book over and over again? I’ve tried to keep the story flowing from section to section, from year to year in Manjunath’s life. However, it is important to give a sense that Manjunath’s normal development, both emotional and sexual, is being interrupted by the pressures exerted on him by his father and the system. The texture of ‘Selection Day’ attempts to convey that.
Q. Let’s talk about Mohan Kumar, the father of your two protagonists, not a very likeable man. What or whom inspired this character? Do you believe that children pay the price of their parent’s unrequited ambitions that it is their unique burden to bear? Is this why Mohan Kumar is relentlessly cruel to his two children?
A. Aravind Adiga: Mohan Kumar is a real man, or rather, a composite of many real cricketing fathers. Just visit any maidan where poor boys are playing cricket and you will find a Mohan Kumar, on the sidelines, shouting at his son or sons. For thousands of poor men like Mohan Kumar today, the obsession is to escape poverty by turning their sons into the next Sachin Tendulkars. They control every aspect of their sons’ lives, from nutrition to training to studies, even down to hair-style. Though the original desire, to escape poverty through cricket, is admirable, over time these fathers develop an unnatural urge to control their sons’ bodies and minds.
Only one in ten thousand boys will ever make it to the IPL or the Indian national team. It is not a question of talent alone; you need luck, you need a godfather in the Selection Committee. From the age of 5 you have been told by your father that it is your duty to lift your family out of poverty by becoming the new Tendulkar. You have not been allowed to concentrate on your studies; there is no back-up. One day you fail to make the team. It is devastating for the boys. In countries like America, there are strict laws to ensure that gifted young athletes are protected from the greed of their fathers, coaches, and clubs: we have no such laws in India.
Q. While researching the book you spent quite a lot of talking to young batsmen, coaches, talent scouts, what were some of the things that persistently stood out to you in your conversations with them? One in ten thousand boys make it to the IPL or the national team, what drives young men to pursue a career path in which the odds of success are so low? How do they handle the failure, did you channel some of these experiences into the book?
A. Aravind Adiga: We see only cricket's success stories on television; the Virat Kohlis, the ones who made it. But most talented young cricketers will fail to make the national team, and through no fault of their own. Even cricket coaches will tell you, no one can predict which boy will succeed and which one will fail. When a sixteen-year old boy plays cricket competitively, he has to devote most of his mornings and evenings to practice; at a time when the academic pressure on him is at its greatest, he cannot go to special classes, tutorials, or science labs. This is why some top teenage cricketers drop out of junior college. The boy who wants to become the new Sachin Tendulkar gambles everything on one throw of the dice: on being selected. If he fails, his self-esteem collapses; he feels he has let down his family, who were counting on his cricketing success to become rich. Some boys who fail in cricket have the strength of character, and the family support, to reinvent themselves and go back to college. Others lose their way, and succumb to temptations like alcohol.
Q. The one thing that persistently stands out over the course of the narrative is the moral crisis that Manjunath faces, he is essentially a good kid who is forced to make certain decisions, which frankly no kid his age should be asked to make. How did you go about deciding how and what he would choose?
A. Aravind Adiga: There are plenty of teen prodigies in Mumbai’s school cricket; some young batsman recently scored 600 runs in an innings, I think. They appear in the newspapers, and on television, and are congratulated by actors like Shah Rukh Khan on Twitter. But what are these new Sachins, these teenaged cricketing prodigies, really thinking? What if he doesn’t want to play cricket, but wants to be a normal teenager, like everyone else? The novel is an attempt to get inside the mind of one of these boys.
Q. Who are your mentors?
A. Aravind Adiga: Adil Jussawalla, one of India’s finest poets and literary critics, has been a tremendous mentor to me, as he has been to so many others. Adil is one of India’s living treasures; I encourage young readers to discover his poems and essays. Pankaj Mishra has helped me for nearly a decade to become a better novelist. However, the biggest influence on me has been the work of the historian Ramachandra Guha.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. Aravind Adiga: I’ve worked on ‘Selection Day’ for five years. It’s time for a long holiday.
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However, the story doesn't move the way his other novels did. The confusion in characters have somehow trickled into the storyline. The ending is unpredictable but quite sudden and lacks explication.
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