This Is a Book That Simply Keeps Entertaining: “Name Place Animal Thing” by Mayank Shekhar

As I drink my afternoon’s ritualistic cup of tea, I lean back on my chair collecting my thoughts on Mayank Shekhar’s Name Place Animal Thing. I close my eyes in the warm sun rays and stretch my arms out soaking in the warmth. This sumptuous languor is reflective of the book. Living in times where discussions are designed to fit into binaries of yes or no, black or white, all or none, Name Place Animal Thing presents Mayank’s (yes I am addressing him as if I know him personally, because reading the book felt like having chats with a friend over tea) nuanced views on all things under the sun. It meanders from one subject to the other seamlessly. It is light and yet not frivolous, incisive without being boring.

The articles breeze through contrasting subjects like Emran Hashmi’s success from being the ‘least desirable man’ to becoming ‘greatest desi sexpot’; the phenomenon of Anna Hazare; how Rajiv Gandhi rewrote Ramayan in ‘Caesarian Birth of Indian Television’; why is dry Ahmedabad still one of the wettest cities in India’ and how the west like the rest, can’t comprehend a post-racial world. The nonchalance is comforting and the irreverence indulging. This ‘part rant, part reportage; partly serious and partly funny’ anthology is aptly titled Name Place Animal Thing as it talks about religion, politics, urban India, the youth across cities, social media and Bollywood: everything that is pop culture. It’s a mishmash which works together. I particularly enjoyed reading the effervescent ‘The art of Khud Khushi’  where author’s observations provide rich perspective on what makes one happy; the philosophy ‘Thoda khao thoda pheko, bahut mazaa aayega’  quoting from the movie Jaane Bhi Do Yaron reflects an idea of happiness. One may or may not agree but would enjoy the refreshing views.

Chai pe charchaesque feel of the book is soothing and over the light banter profound wisdom might pop up catching you unaware. The articles are Mayank’s mann ki  baat  (now I somehow can’t stop using the Modi jargon!) reminded me of the scene from the film Bawarchi where Rajesh Khanna bubbles out the profound Tagore in a seemingly mundane conversation—It is so simple to be happy but is so difficult to be simple. This is a book that simply keeps entertaining.

In my opinion, the cover does not do justice to the fun title and the anthology itself, and the interleaving pages could have been done without as they are rather jarring.

As advised by the author in the beginning of the anthology, I consumed the book in bits and chunks at my own pace and it satiated me well enough. I cannot help but wonder what if the author would have revisited these pieces now in the present, fleshed them out more to an updated form, would the book have been different and better? Regardless, putting these stray thoughts aside, this anthology is an interesting read. And while quoting the author ‘Where everyone talks, no one listens, and the non-fiction novelist scores.’ I would say Mayank Shekhar’s Name Place Animal Thing scores well.


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