Fervour to be Free Book Review: Anatomy of happiness

In Mumbai, on a business trip, I had asked a young street shoe polisher what would make him happy if his wish be granted by chance.”

“I wish more people come this way every day so my business would be good,” was the answer.

Peppered with many anecdotes, Fervor to be Free, a non-fiction by Partho Dhang, Philippines-based Indian zoologist, entrepreneur and writer, is an engaging, breezy read. At once inspiring, scientific, philosophical, historical and spiritual-religious, it is Paulo Coelho-ish in its storytelling, and powerfully explores the quest for happiness, and the question ‘Who am I?’

In another instance, he asks the man at the wheel during a drive along the scenic Philippines coast: “What is the single most important thing you would want if you were given the chance to have

it?”

“Money,” the driver said spontaneously, mischievously adding: “Can I add a girlfriend to the list?” A primordial need of all living forms is comfort and a mate – in short, happiness. The book captures past and present society, and its religious, caste and ideological moorings. Dhang’s house-hunting experience in Chennai, where he spent twelve years after his schooling and escape from the “turmoil of Kolkata”, evokes nostalgia of the eighties. A friend had referred him to a landowner contact. Dhang writes: “The owner was the head priest of the temple and from the Brahmin caste... Brahmins in southern India practice strict vegetarianism. I am not from his caste and I can’t think of a meal without a dish of fish or meat.

“I knew this would never work and was confused as to why my friend had sent me here knowing well my needs. Sheepishly, I knocked and was welcomed inside...I quickly informed there must have been some miscommunication in setting up this meeting...The gentleman asked me what the miscommunication was, as he had heard all about me from my friend. He had no objection to however I lived and whatever I ate. The talk was over even before it had begun and ended with a plate of hot snacks and homemade brewed filter coffee.”

Book: Fervour to be Free: A Tale of Tussle Between Mind, Body and Us

Author: Partho Dhang

Publisher: Invincible Publishers

Pages: 000; Price: Rs 299

(By Anoop Jaggal)