Johnny Gone Down – Karan Bajaj

The protagonist is Nikhil Arya, an ambitious graduate from MIT who is all set to begin a successful career at NASA, with dreams and abilities to make it really huge. But a completely unplanned vacation with friend Sameer to Cambodia post convocation starts the downfall for Nikhil. Caught in 1975 Khmer Rouge sponsored genocide just as their flight touches down at Phnom Penh, dramatic events unfold at a unbelievably fast pace. Nikhil makes decisions and acts in a way for reasons unknown and incomprehensible, even to him; lands himself in captivity, loses it all in two years, a seemingly eternal period of pain and anguish.

There are different avatars he assumes, he turns a Buddhist monk from a genocide survivor in Thailand. For eight years, he meditates, tries to come to terms with his bitter past. But quite unsuccessful in accomplishing it, he travels across the globe to Rio, Brazil and renounces all tenets of Buddhism he slowly imbibed in one go. He turns a drug peddler, runs an empire, starts a family, hits everything right when the world turns topsy turvy again and lands him homeless in Minnesota. There, he works wonders as a software lord in one moment and in another, quite conveniently transforms into nothing but a deadly game fighter. The last leg of Nikhil’s roller coaster journey which is more of a steep, head straight plunge, ends in India.

The pros of this book are – it is readable, fast paced and easy prose that requires undivided attention of only 6-8 hours for completion. The book offers quite a thrilling journey and authors’ ideas are conveyed quite crisply without undue mess or confusion.

Its cons are – though Nikhil’s journey spans for 25 years of his life and is meant to be riveting, words used or style of writing employed does not convey that hard hitting, lasting effect. That’s the primary reason why one can finish this book fast. In the end, the book appears a perfect material for a Bollywood flick.

This book is suitable for a train journey or say during an extended weekend stay at home. I would rate the book average and okay. Karan Bajaj is definitely good in spanning great distances across the globe in about 300 pages and covering myriad events that stand-alone appear like unraveled threads but actually weave into a meaningful mosaic pattern in entirety towards the end. I am quite possessive about my books but I would not mind if some one borrowed this book from me and failed to return it. Pardon granted 🙂

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