Around 12 years back, I read a book called Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham that made me rethink my priorities in life and see the whole idea of the meaning of life from a new perspective. It is one of those rare books that I can claim influenced me deeply. Somehow reading Rain by Sriram Subramanium reminded me of that book. Of course the protagonist's character and circumstances that lead him on a unusual journey in the physical work are quite different in the two books. However both the journeys in the real world, lead to bigger journeys in the spiritual world for the respective protagonists. Here again there is a deviation in the final destination of the two. But parallels do exist.
Let me start with the things I liked most about the book and move on to things that in my opinion could have been better. The character of Jai Dubey seemed very real and someone I could relate to. The clash between ideals and monetary requirements for maintaining prestige in family circles, the disgust with certain ways of the world while being forced to play along, temptations and human failings are all things every person goes through at some point in his or her life. All these were brought out really well. The secondary characters -his wife Sarika, his in laws, his friends, his coworkers, the street boy Raju and his mother, his clients, local politicians - every one of them was really well etched and one can remember them distinctly after finishing the story. An unique primary character and distinct secondary characters are definitively one of the strongest points of the book.
I found the language to be quite good and the narration flowed smoothly. While remaining simple, the language was still elegant with absolutely no crassness. The pacing was perfect and the book can easily be finished in a single setting. The author manages to maintain the interest throughout, leading the reader effortlessly from one event to the other. The use of right amount of Indian words at appropriate locations also manages to give the local flavor.
The plot is interesting. The protagonist is an architect who on one hand wants to opt out of the rat race and the demands of society but at the same time wants to prove himself to his wife's family. The story starts off with the protagonist taking an ambitious and challenging project to earn money quickly to build a house for his wife. But there are challenges and early rains can play spoil sport to all his plans. Thus the title of the story. As the story progresses, we discover what role the rains play in the protagonist's life and the strange twists and turns it takes him through as well as the mental demons from his dark past and the role they play.
The book also has some philosophy in it, most of which I tended to agree with. However I felt the philosophy did not blend seamlessly with the story line. At places the philosophy seemed to stand apart as a digression from the story. I felt the same about some of the detailed descriptions as well. While the descriptions were really well done, recreating most of the story surroundings in the reader's mind, at places they seemed to distract from the plot.
Talking of the plot, I did feel there were a few loose ends. Quite a few of the minor elements in the story did not find closure. Probably the author intended it that way. But I generally like everything to be neatly tied up. The other thing I found was some of the decisions by the protagonist seemed abrupt. I am not sure though if it is a problem with the plotting or just the character of the protagonist to take impulsive decisions without much thought that I am not able to relate to, given my own temperament. Also some of the events in the story seemed a tad too cinematic to me - the ones that involved local politicians and policemen. It is of course possible that is how the real world works and I am not exposed to that side of the world.
I also felt the title did not do proper justice to the story. It somehow seems too drab and immensely forgettable. It does not intrigue the reader and grab the attention. Nor is it related to a deeper philosophical undercurrent running across the story.
Overall I would say it is definitely a book worth reading. Possibly a second reading as well. It managed to remain light and breezy while at the same time giving some food for thought.