The story revolves around two men who share a bond of uncompromising friendship andcompanionship in the small town of Pipalnagar, Northern India.
Arun and his friendsThe protagonist, Arun, is an Urdu writer who earns a living through his unrefined crime novelsin the language. Unable to earn enough through his penmanship he tries various jobs inPipalnagar even vegetables vendor, pick pocketing etc. Arun dreams about writing a blockbusterthat will catapult him into stardom.
He co-habits his twelve feet by seven feet space with Suraj, a homeless orphan (he lost hisparents during the chaos of 1947 partition), and Kamla, the young prostitute who is married to aman double her age. Suraj and Arun, they both are vying for the affections of Kamala eventhough they are thick as thieves. All three of them have developed bonds of love and care. Surajsuffers from epilepsy and gets bouts of fits. His health often keeps Arun worried.A dull town with dreams of grandeurIn the lazy and unspectacular town of Pipalnagar, the inhabitants live mundane lives weavingdreams of reaching zenith of success in nearby city of Delhi.
Delhi is the alluring temptress oftheir innocent dreams.But the dreams are small and quaint. Among the cast of people is Deep Chand, a barber whodreams about owning a high end salon; Pitamber, a young wrestler, pedals cycle-rickshaw wantsto trade up to scooter-rickshaw; Aziz want to open a junk-shop in Chandni Chowk etc. None,unfortunately, will reach the promise land of their dreams.
There is also a beautiful dichotomy is characters like Seth Govind Ram (who owns a bank has aconcubine along with his wife) and runs the brothel where Kamla works. Then there is GanpatRam a beggar with airs of aristocracy as he lavishly speaks in immaculate English. His believesthat he was possessed by a spirit which led to his bent back and subsequent misery.An earthquake and a tripOne day Pipalnagar is hit by an earthquake. People rush out of their house and flood the streets.
There are astrological predictions of the world coming to its end but Arun and Suraj are notperturbed. They go out for their usual night strolls to the distant fields and old brick kilns. Whenthey return to their place, the place is back to its drowsy normalcy and all the commotion hassubdued.Soon, the two decides to make a journey to the hills. Suraj has never seen the hills but Arunremembers them from a trip he took as a child. Both of them are puzzled by the wealthy touristswho colonize the hill station in the summer and mesmerized by the natural beauty of themountains, pine trees and cool streams of sweet water.
A trip to DelhiFinally, Arun travels to Delhi. He borrows a shirt from Kamala as he has to appear for aninterview as the Urdu editor. He tells his interviewer that he has come to Delhi to research on hisbook titled,’ Delhi is not far’. He gets the job with a monthly salary of Rs 300. He visits placeslike Chandani Chowk, Connaught Place etc and is left speechless by the coming together of oldtraditions and modern ways of people, architecture and life in the capital.He feels people should either live in villages where there is intimacy or cities where there iscomplete anonymity. In towns like Pipalnagar everybody knows you but no one loves you.
The final goodbyesArun and Suraj decide to leave as Suraj finally passes his matriculation exams. Arun visitsKamala’s village to persuade her to leave with him. Sadly, Kamala declines the offer saying thatshe is still married and cannot leave her family. She asks Arun to come and meet her wheneverhe wants and is happy to have helped Arun during his time in Pipalnagar.
She also tells Arun thatSuraj is the true love of his life not her.Arun and Suraj say their goodbyes to their friends in Pipalnagar and pack up their tin boxes tostart their new voyage in the capital.Key Thoughts:The title, Delhi is Not Far is an ode to their hopeful dreams about the fabled journey to Delhi, thecity of glorious destinies.
It sketches a dynamic scene of small-town India with its simpleminded people. It also represents a romantic picture of life in rural India.The story is about a love affair in which there are no losers. It sublimely touches deeper layers ofone’s psyche and how the existing conditions workaround that. It scrutinizes the profound depthof human relationships beyond blood and lineage.**In my opinion, the story, in implicit and some explicit ways also depict tones of homoeroticcontent unfit for young readers.