But that’s only part of the reason. The other part is that this can’t be your average feelgood book, because the author isn’t your average feelgood author. As the back-flap tells us, he’s a "pioneer of the New Wave, progressive cinema in India". His films "have all won major awards including the National Awards for film excellence in India". Everything about him is unique and rarefied—that’s why his cinema was interesting: he believed in the world beyond the box-office. He knows about cynicism and greed. He has worshipped at the feet of the Communist god, then realised the incongruity of such faith. He believes in history and weeps for all the horror that’s been sponsored in the name of religion, politics and good intentions. He may be on his way to becoming a Sufi, channelling Mulla Nasruddin as he rides towards the sunset on a donkey-shaped magic carpet. In short, he knows too much and he feels too passionately to write a squishy-mushy page-turner—so why has he tried?
In his preface the author shares his doubts about what he has achieved. "Will it make sense to my readers? I do not know. Is it a novel or an anti-novel? I do not know. What I do know is that I struggled and groped and, very often, floundered to contain all that was going through my mind." If I’d been one of the friends he consulted while writing this book, which is named for his late mother and takes the form of an open-ended letter to her, I would have suggested calling it a personal documentary in book-form.