Book #9 Marathon Baba by Girish Kohli

Title: Marathon Baba

Author: Girish Kohli

Publishers: Fingerprint!

Price: Rs 150


As I flipped through the pages of Marathon Baba the very first time, I was distinctly dissatisfied. On the back cover flap, the author, Girish Kohli was described as having been born “on the day when a dog in the US was put on trial and executed for barking too much”. Girish, it went on to say, “hasn’t passed out of the IITs or the IIMs. He doesn’t have a day job either. If you wish to speak to him, you will not find him either on Facebook or Twitter. He drives a jeep without a spare tyre and is the author of two unpublished novels. Marathon Baba, his third book which has been published first, is the only book in the world based on a pair of unused running shoes”.

What put me off about this author bio was that it used the tired old trick of using humour on the back flap. It felt a bit too much. I mean, I know this is a funny book, but when I read an author bio, I’m looking for actual information.  Information about his social networking or lack thereof is not going to help me understand his work better.

At this point, I must confess that when the book arrived from the publishers, I was in a very cranky mood. I had just read another ‘humour’ book: an endless, tiresome bore of a book with too many words and too little wit. So naturally, I looked on another ‘humour’ book – complete with a funny author bio – with ill-concealed loathing.

Turns out, it was a good thing. Because I was expecting so little enjoyment from Marathon Baba, it hit me with quite a wallop when I realized that I was racing through it and enjoying it immensely. Sometimes people like me need that wallop. It keeps us from becoming overbearing cynics and turning to one-note bores.

Now, if you’re one of those who view the boom in Indian publishing with sinking hearts, be of good cheer. There is at least Marathon Baba, which you can read and actually enjoy.  The book is written with a frantic pace which reflects its main concept: that a man can keep running away from his troubles and still find salvation. No, really! It’s the opposite of everything we’ve read in Paulo Coelho books.

The plot in a few short sentences: Boy Karna grows up in bad home. Mom and Dad fight. Boy runs away for the first time.  After that, he runs away from other problems like girl who broke his heart and a dead-end job.  He finds that he can’t stop running. That’s his salvation, his peace. He finds a magical pair of sneakers which go on to be a major point of contention in the novel.  Karna ends up founding the Marathon Ashram which becomes a refuge to all those who are running from something or the other.  He refuses to be religious and refuses to be political and that, ultimately, may be his downfall.

A deeply cynical vein runs through Marathon Baba and it is not afraid to poke at Modern India’s holy cows. Corporate jobs, the idea of success, the ubiquity of politics and religion, worship of celebrity and our desperate need for someone, anyone to lead us – all of these are skilfully skewered by Kohli. There’s no denying that the prose tends to be a little uneven, but there’s great energy in this book. It’s almost as if it was written under the influence of the kind of drugs that Marathon Baba sells to fund his ashram.

Marathon Baba is not a very heavy book and it won’t take too much of your time. Don’t hesitate to pick this up if you’re looking for a story that will breathlessly take you right till the end and will make you laugh as well.


2 thoughts on “Book #9 Marathon Baba by Girish Kohli

  1. What a Brilliant novel it has been written… when i bought the book i never thought that i am going to Enjoy This novel so much.Actually i was on the travel and i had to buy some book to pass my time in the Train. So i brought this book from the station along with other book that was chetan bhagat revolution 2020. After i bought this book, moment after that i started regretting myself that what i have done. I mean look at the cover of the novel, there is a map on it and you are not able to guess from the cover that what is in it. But i said to myself that i have bought this book now what’s wrong in reading. Let’s try it may be i can found something interesting in it. The moment i started the novel, i was not able to understand anything and anything at all about the main character karna , but as soon as i started going ahead i found many surprised elements in it and i was shocked at the way novel was turning cocky and interesting . The more i read, the more curiousity was rising . I have to travel from delhi to mumbai on the train and it took almost 23-24 hours reaching over there. Thanks to this novel that did’nt found any single moment in a boredom,Because i had this with me.I was surprised with the way the carried the surprised and Interesting stuff throughout the novel and i was shocked to see such a nice and touching climax in the story. Then it came to my notice that this is his first novel so it is thumbs up by me for girish kohli for such a nice novel at the first shot , I will definitely buy his second novel when it will come in the market.

    The Verdict:
    Never have I read a novel by an Indian author that has succeeded in putting a smile on my face all through the 255 pages that it runs through. Girish Kohli has arguably written the most stylish novel and I must say that if you want to take a lesson in creative writing, it is this, it is this, it is this!! The style of writing is so fresh that you are hooked onto the book due to the immense pleasure of reading it and a different concept and a an amazing idea never hurts.

    The language of the book is simple and laid-back and the whole story kind of flows effortlessly like the fictional river Gathaji in its story. Girish manages to make the reader visualize every word that he has written and his humor just percolates into the protagonist too. Though the Marathon Baba is not supposed to be a spiritual guru, yet his one liners are humorously philosophical. The whole story revolves around just one character and that has been written and handled really well. The style and humor more than make up for any shortcomings that maybe in the story. The content is supported by little footnotes by the author himself and the mention of his own name within the dialog makes sure you take it as a piece of fiction.

    Frankly Speaking, Marathon Baba is one of the best works of fiction by an Indian writer. The climax is edgy and all in all I would say that an Indian novel minus a love a story is just what could have restored my faith in the writers here.

    • Wow…you certainly seem to have enjoyed the novel a lot! I enjoyed it too, and I definitely think that it’s very different from the rash of ‘me-too’ novels that are coming into the market these days.

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