“All for one and one for all. Our motto should be the same. This is not only Rajat’s problem. It is our problem and we have to think of a solution, together.” p.31
Kumar, Ramendra. Now or Never. New Delhi, India: Ponytale Books, 2010.
Genre: Middle Grade – Young Adult
Issue/Topic: Father-son relationship; friendship; alcoholism; sport, i.e boxing; India
Oh, the joy! I just finished reading NOW OR NEVER, written by award winning Indian author Ramendra Kumar, and what a ride! It all starts with the setting. If you’re not from South Asia, be ready for a culture shock. Life in India is different. Rajat is a thirteen year-old boy who lives with his father, a bar bouncer. Rajat is pretty responsible: he’s a good student, he’s a good friend, he… looks after his dad. He is genuinely concerned about his father’s physical and emotional well-being. He cares about their relationship and he wants it to keep growing.
Shiva, Rajat’s father, lost his beloved wife when his son was only two. He’s been raising him alone ever since, and has made incredible sacrifices in that regard. The hardship proved to be damaging, as he fell victim of alcohol addiction. Life’s circumstances also forced him to give up a promising career in boxing.
Hurt and saddened to witness his dad’s life dwindle, Rajat decides to get him on the path to recovery–recovery from alcoholism, recovery of one’s self-esteem–by helping him get back on the ring. Will Rajat succeed in his quest? Will Shiva overcome his demons and win the fight of his life?
What I enjoyed in NOW OR NEVER, what surprised me
Often times when reading foreign books the format, the plot structure will be different from what we might be used to in the United States. I stress “United States” as opposed to Western world, because even within the West you would notice differences (French children’s books don’t always follow the same rules as the American ones, for example). It is the case here. The English has a different flavor as well. The way children speak is unique. The respect they show their elders, a mirror of the Indian culture, is shining; yet, the main characters are kids, which means they do have their flaws, and they have, for the most part, quite a strong character. The relationship between Rajat and his father, Rajat and his friends, is inspirational.
About the author
Ramendra Kumar is a prolific award winning children’s book author who resides in Rourkela, India. Among other abundant achievements, one of his books, JJ ACT, is endorsed by the United States Office on Drugs and Crimes. In addition, Ramendra is involved with non-profits helping children in crisis, notably street and working children. He is the editor of a website for kids in the age group 6-16, which is published from New York : www.bolokids.com. Ramendra Kumar was featured in February 2011 on PaperTigers, on a guest post titled The Here and Now in Children’s Literature.
NOW OR NEVER has been recommended as a supplementary reader for classes 7 & 8 by the Central Board of Secondary Education–CBSE, the largest board in India. Though Amazon lists it as out-of-stock, the book is available online to the foreign audience on Word Power Books, a UK-based website. I wish it were also available on Kindle and other e-readers.