Let me be brief in the beginning. Janardhan Talbot by Mohan Timmaraju is a novel that wonderfully takes the readers back to the 19th century when the British were trying to take over Indian states one by one. It is sharp, strongly narrated and written with full conviction. The novelist, in his 80s, did not leave any room for the readers to feel bored. It is engaging; it is fast; it is meant to be read by readers of every age group.
Janardhan Talbot (Vol I) is a novel by Mohan Timmaraju that is set in pre-Independent India and is based on the life of a fictional Janardhan from south India. He has a friend named Jonathan Talbot, a British officer’s son. When he dies in an accident, Janardhan assumes the identity of Jonathan Talbot and gets himself on a ship of the English. He is easily accepted as ‘one of them’ because of his looks and his British accent. And then begins the journey of Janardhan Talbot – to cities, to countries and to continents – learning, teaching, loving, leaving…
Divided into 19 chapters, the novel explores the pre-Independence India and the life of a youth who tries to explore the British land and live a life that is embellished with dignity and pride – he wants, in short, to become a British. In his teens, Janardhan killed two English soldiers and ran away from his hometown. He begins studies among the English citizens and befriends Jonathan Talbot and his family. He is a fine young man with command over the English language and he is often mistaken to be a Britisher rather than an Indian.
The language used by Mohan Timmaraju is that of an experienced person sharing his story with the readers. It perfectly suits the narrative with details of places and period – such as December 1839 – Madras, India. The first volume of Janardhan Talbot begins in 1839-40 and ends in 1850. This volume sets the tone for the next volume – Janardhan Talbot, Volume II. In this novel, major themes discussed are the treatment of British towards the Indian people in India or anywhere else (mainly England). Janardhan faces racism at many public places in India just because he is an Indian. Indians are treated unfairly almost on every occasion.
On the critical side, Mohan Timmaraju has tried to establish the sincere Indian’s state in his debut novel. The protagonist Janardhan is a man of words and he loves Manga whole-heartedly. His casual encounters with Rena Ford, Shami, Sophia, and Jennifer cannot shake his love for Manga. So, as the traditional Indian man would do – remain a one-woman man!
Other themes in the novel are Janardhan Rao’s thirst for wealth, dignity and a life of luxury. Still, he remains a man of soft heart and helps everyone in need. His character has been towered very high but a major dilemma remains throughout the narrative – why? Why did Janardhan become Jonathan Talbot? His country, India, was being looted and robbed by the British and he keeps enjoying the luxuries of being a British? These questions might be answered once you read the novel completely and understand the state of mind of Janardhan Rao – a protagonist created by Mohan Timmaraju out of his childhood stories and imagination and his sense of the history of Indian freedom struggle.
review by Sidhartha for The Book Blog
Janardhan Talbot - Vol I
A perfect novel meant to be read by the readers who are interested in first Indian freedom movement or any reader who wants to read a mature, well-planned and well-managed novel… written by a Veteran who has been raised among patriots and freedom-fighters.