A life lived fully
Reviewed by Aditi Garg

Johnny Gone Down
By Karan Bajaj.
Pages 308. Rs 99.

WHAT is happiness? Many will say success, others may say it is having all you want materialistically and yet others may count in the well-being and affection of loved ones. All things that constitute a secured, guarded and confirmed idea of happiness or a path to it. We all envy the person in the Mercedes and the one with a big mansion. But who we truly want to emulate is the one who doesnít seem to have any of the above and yet happens to be the most happy-go-lucky person around.

Though it may sound easier to achieve than the luxuries, it is the path chosen by the brave few. They are the ones who make their own rules for living and live their life to the fullest. Now, that is something to be envious of.

Johnny Gone Down is the second novel by Karan Bajaj. He is the best-selling author of Keep off the Grass, which was a semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Indiaplaza Golden Quill Award. Coming from an Army background, he studied at different places all over India. He was born in 1976 and is inspired by his backpacking and travel trips to write. He is currently pursuing his career in brand marketing with Kraft Foods, New York. Johnny Gone Down follows the travels and travails of a young man with a promising future, who makes some life-altering decisions.

The novel follows Nikhil Arya, an MIT graduate, awaiting a glorious career at the NASA. Although his life had not been a complete bed of roses, nothing could have prepared him for what was about to unfold. As the series of events unfurl, it becomes increasingly clear that each person is defined by the choices he makes. Arya takes the heroís road, the path less travelled and to his credit never once thinks of himself as a hero. He gives the gift of life to a dear friend and endangers his own. Everytime he is faced with a situation where he could chicken out and take the easier way out, he stays put and rises like the phoenix.

In his 40 years, he has accomplished more than a handful of us could vouch for together. He has been numbed enough to feel no hunger or pain as a prisoner at the hands of radicals and been given a new lease of live by a monk, a henchman for a drug dealer, proved to be an IT whiz and dabbled in playing games of life and death. After all these ups and downs, will he find the light at the end of the tunnel or is it the journey itself that makes him the person he is?

The book answers this question with lucidity. The author has made the plot full of twists and turns that guarantee it to be a novel you canít put down till you have reached the very end. His writing is very gripping and at the same time, grounded. There is nothing pretentious about it. The interview with the author at the end of the book gives us an insight into his thought process. He comes across as a very simple person whose writing reflects his soul.