Thursday, January 14, 2021

Review: The Cloudburst by Rajesh Naiksatam


"The will to survive is a force that never discriminates."
by Rajesh Naiksatam
Story Vision Magic, Inc
Young Adult Catastrophy Fiction
185 pages

After fifteen-year-old Ganpu Aapla and his parents lose everything they own, including their beautiful ancestral home in Katalveldurwadi Dabhol, India, to a forced takeover by America’s Enrone Corporation, they move to Mumbai in search of justice. Ganpu’s family takes up residence in a temporary shack that doubles as a chai shop near the Bandra Kurla Complex in a Mumbai suburb.

One day during monsoon season, when Ganpu’s parents are out working, a harmless drizzle suddenly turns into a torrential downpour, which quickly floods the streets.

Julie, Rick, James, and Saira, four international students whose parents all live in India, are supposed to be taking a boat trip to the Elephant Caves, but the unexpected cloudburst dampens their plans. After the tour group heads back to land, their guide leaves them with a stranger—a local teacher named Anu—at a bus stop while he looks for help.

Local teens Siva, Javed, and Xinmin, enthralled by the Mumbai rains, decide to venture out into the city instead of going straight home after school and find themselves also stranded at the bus stop.

This ragtag group of mixed classes, races, and genders is forced to seek shelter with one another in Ganpu’s family’s shop. While they wait, the intensity of the rain increases, threatening their survival. With no way of contacting their frantic parents, the group reluctantly waits together to be rescued.

When it appears an outside rescue might be impossible, Ganpu wholly commits to saving the lives of his guests despite their distrust of him, a lowly roadside hawker. In order for his plan to work, though, he must destroy his family’s only home and livelihood, while each one of the stranded must overcome personal demons and prejudices.

Terrified and left with no other way out, Anu must conquer her own fears and motivate the kids to work together, or else the whole crew will face certain death.

This thrilling, edge-of-your-seat story demonstrates how courage, heart, and integrity is necessary to change our lives and the world around us.


                                                               * broad variety of characters
                                                               * contains individual issues as well as a main one
                                                               * messages is clear by the end
                                                               * good tension
                                                               * dialogue, situation, and characters natural and true to life


Set in Mumbai, this is a well-paced, tense tale, which hits upon many themes important in today's world.

Ganpu lives with his parents and helps out as much as he can at their Thai shop in attempt to keep the family afloat after losing everything to the bigger corporations. When a storm moves in, he helps more than a couple stranded teens find shelter in the shop, but the rain doesn't cease, and they find themselves in increasing danger. Ganpu does his best and will sacrifice everything to try to help everyone survive...even if they look down upon him.

A large variety of teens come together in a very unexpected place and are forced to confront several harsh realities. While the main plot centers around the storm, the author allows the various issues and baggage of the teens to float right along side as they work their way through other obstructions. They need to learn to step beyond normal borders of race, gender, and social status, and in the process, might see past stereotypes and manufactured differences. Especially Ganpu has tons of heart and comes across as very natural with the twists and personality kinks someone of his age tends to carry. He's a wonderful hero.

The book is written in multiple points of view and switches back and forth quite a bit, sometimes after only a page or two. This allows the parents and others' worries and situations to also come to light. While interesting, it also jolted and always took a moment to figure out who's viewpoint it was. Unfortunately, it also allowed little time for much depth to build with any of the characters outside of Ganpu. World building and backgrounds also suffered. If it weren't for the illustrations sprinkled through-out the pages, it would have been very difficult to picture the scenes and surroundings. Which is too bad, since this does take place in Mumbai and would give especially young readers a chance to broaden their horizons along the way a bit more.

This read definitely fulfills its purpose and through a edge-of-the-seat situation, shows that bonding occurs even when it seems impossible.

And here he is...

Rajesh Naiksatam was born and raised in Mumbai, India. At age ten, while on the school playground, Rajesh was hit by a powerfully thrown but misguided javelin. By the grace of God, the javelin wobbled at the very last moment and lost its momentum, fortunately leaving Rajesh with nothing more than a half-inch-deep hip wound.

Rajesh's late father, Shrikant Naiksatam, was one of the finest animators and visual effects artists India has ever produced. Shrikant wanted Rajesh to become a computer engineer, but Rajesh was more interested in following in his father's footsteps and joining the creative field. Eventually, Rajesh convinced Shrikant to let him work with him. While training with his father in animation and visual effects, Rajesh had the privilege of working with Prahlad Kakar, India's advertisement guru. Prahlad gave Rajesh an opportunity to direct his first stop-motion animation film for a commercial, which won an Advertising Club Award.

Rajesh came to the United States to pursue a master's degree in computer graphics at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where one of his teachers was Chris Wedge, the director of the movie Ice Age.

After graduating from SVA, Rajesh worked for Tony Ciao’s company Data Motion Arts in New York City, where part of his job was training interns. Visual effects artist John Kohn was one of his interns. A few months after John's internship ended, he went to Los Angeles for work and convinced Rajesh to also move there, inviting him to stay in his apartment until Rajesh found a job. Since then Rajesh has worked with several film studios, including Boss Films, Digital Domain, Warner Bros., Walt Disney Animation, DreamWorks, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

For Rajesh, the courage to face every challenging situation in his life to date came from that unforgettable javelin incident in his childhood.

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