Fair-Weather Brother: A Review

Iris C F Gomes

Fair-Weather Brother by Pogoat (pseudonym) is a harsh reminder that all is not well in the state of Goa. With a dystopian twist, the book attempts to jolt the inured mind into awakening and addressing these issues. The book is the first of a trilogy and lives true to its warning that the content is suitable for those above 18 years.

The novel takes you on a surreal, psychedelic trip (pun intended) through the eyes of Charlie, the main protagonist. His brother James accompanies him but also has his own set of experiences. The foundation of the novel is laid in Goa’s tourism industry and its flailing performance in recent times. This prompts Charlie and James to embark on a search for alternative sources of economic stability. The two seem to have the Goan ‘sussegad’ attitude built into all their decisions and movements. Trying to combine a holiday and a paid job as caretakers of a luxury campsite at the Nubra Valley in Kashmir, the two brother first halt at Mumbai, where James has a job interview to fill in the post of a photographer aboard a cruise liner.

An encounter with Inas, their cousin who is notorious for his illegal activities and opportunistic behaviour, leads to a flight to Delhi. Delhi is an experience in itself, and the brothers find themselves in situations they are not altogether too pleasing to be in. Tenzin, a displaced Tibetan, makes for a constant companion and comes to their aid in times of need.

Fair-Weather Brother is a scary reminder of the times we live in and presents a bleak outlook that has an Orwellian feel to it –bordering on a 1984ish type of a chaotic situation. Drugs, prostitution, unnecessary airports, the fickle tourism industry and fear of an impending nuclear disaster, all make an appearance.

The title Fair-Weather Brother defines a typical behaviour we often ascribe to Goans in the sense of kam zalem, voiz melo (once your work is done, you forget the person).

It is every man for himself in an economy that forces you to barter your integrity to stay afloat financially. Inas epitomises this behaviour in his shameless exploitation of other people, be it strangers or blood relatives. His slimy persona is evident right from the start, but you feel shocked at the depth of his deception nevertheless, sharing in Charlie’s own towards the end of the novel.

Tenzin makes for another interesting character whose abhorrence of the cold belies his Tibetan heritage. Here in India, Tenzin is familiar with the warm weather of Bangalore, never having traversed the Himalayan landscape. The man is a contradiction in more ways than one. He is an IT expert working for a known scoundrel but has the decency to side with Charlie with a clear vision of right and wrong. His ramblings about a future with the dominance of AI (Artificial Intelligence) are not only disturbing, the anxiety it inspires inevitably flows into the dystopian state of affairs that form the climax of the novel.

The writing style in Fair-Weather Brother is realistic. Pogoat does not mince words in his narrative, and one must admit, despite having knowledge of the reality of most of what is described in the novel, it proves to be unsettling reading nonetheless. Fair-Weather Brother forces you to evaluate your own perspective and actions in a world that seems to be going mad.

(The novel is available for Rs 275.)