This is a charming, utterly guileless book by a writer who seems to revel in wearing his heart on his sleeve and setting his gaze on the stars. In The Perfect Outside, Rohit Trilokekar takes us on a philosophic trip to places where both angels and fools would fear to tread. But in he goes blithely and bravely for so charged is he with his mission that he backs himself against all comers, quibblers and critics.
Like all good fables, this one has animals and birds as the principal cast – a parrot rendered flightless, an indolent cat and towards the end, a cow. They have human feelings. Alas, they also have human failings–they talk too much, and even alasser, they think too much. Much of this thinking revolves around re-examining concepts we thought had been done and dusted long ago. To those not prone to philosophy, questions like ‘where do we belong’ and ‘what is home’ are not easy to stomach. They unsettle us and rock the boat on which we are, at the best of times, precariously poised. But Trilokekar ensures that the unwelcome does not descend into the unpalatable.
Fable-like, the plot of The Perfect Outside is elemental. The unlikely duo of parrot and cat are fed up with their lives respectively inside and outside a cage and decide to explore the real ‘outside’. The creatures move slowly and they don’t get far. Unfortunately neither does the story. Sometimes when the crosstalk goes on and on, page after page, the ‘outside’, ‘inside’ refrain begins to get to you, and even the most mild-mannered amongst us is pushed to snapping back: pray what about ‘front side’, ‘backside’.
But you can count on Trilokekar to rev up flagging interest with some 24-carat insights. Sample these: ‘There is always something wanting even in people who have everything.’ Or that an individual seems happy ‘to come back to the very place (he) had been itching to leave’. The ironies and intellectual debates are leavened with humour – often of such an unexpected nature that one wonders if the joke was unintentional. For instance, the owner of the cat is solicitous enough to open not just his heart to his pet but also his washroom. He tells her in all solemnity: ‘This toilet is always open to you.’ Obviously, Eric Segal needs updating – Love means never having to use a separate potty.
Years ago, a man called T.S. Eliot had said: “And the end of all our exploring, Will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time”.Trilokekar’s pets return to where they started and discover truths they had hidden from themselves the first time around. Are the answers satisfactory? Well, I doubt if any existential question can have an answer that carries a full money-back guarantee. But it is an interesting exploration, and for readers who prefer their philosophy skimmed and light, ‘The Perfect Outside’ offers a lot to like.
Book: The Perfect Outside
Publisher: 1889 Books, U.K.
Price: Rs 499