17 May 2018

Review #710: Lean Days by Manish Gaekwad

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city”

----Roman Payne

Manish Gaekwad, an Indian journalist turned writer, has penned a heart touching travel-fiction book called, Lean Days which is a very personal journey of an artist/writer across the country through multiple cities and myriad of souls, food, culture, customs and religions to find love, all the while reminiscing about his past, along with that city's significance in his life. A journey that will not only touch millions of souls but will also inspire the souls to express their individuality and sexuality without any fear and also to wander to find oneself.


Fed up with his tedious desk job, a young man decides to quit on an impulse. He wants to write a novel, but doesn't think he has a story to tell. So the would-be writer, who was raised in a kotha, sets out to travel, hoping to arrive somewhere: at a destination, at a story.

But it's not just about arriving. What about the journey? The joy and pain of trudging through the country without a plan, or a map? If his aim is to write, who will document his search for inspiration, and for love?

Lean Days is the story of an artist's voyage through the country, mixing history with imagination, and finding people and places whose stories he can tell along with his own. It is a book of journeys without an end in sight, about the yearning for romance and succumbing to the temptations of the flesh.

A writer travels across multiple Indian cities in order to look for inspiration to pen his story and for love. Being gay in India, is not an easy thing and that is portrayed very strongly as the author, while hopping one from one city to another, he also moved on from one love to another, sometimes, leaving behind a heartbreak or sometimes just a blissful feeling. As he travels from one place to another, he also collects some souvenirs like a comb in Hampi, a book in Srinagar, and so on. His journey begins from Bangalore, while reminiscing his days spent in the old Indian Coffee House, now shifted to a more modern setting. Next, his journey takes us to Hyderabad, Delhi, Ajmer, Srinagar, then Ladakh, Chandigarh, Manali, Lucknow, Kathmandu, Lumbini, Banaras, Calcutta and finally, to where the writer actually belongs to, i.e., Bombay.

A poignant journey that is not only highly enriching and enlightening but also very, very interesting and intriguing enough to keep the readers anticipating after every single chapter. As he journeys from one city to another, and through the haze of memories associated with that particular place, he not only gets closer to his inner desires but he also discovers his inner self. This is not just a personal journey to express one's sexuality and individuality fearlessly but a journey that is inspiring to the ones reading and observing it from their own perspectives.

Also each city is penned in a vivid manner, I felt like travelling through so many cities from the eyes of the author. Not only that, it felt like the author has brought those alive from his writing style. From the streets to the alleys to the food to the culture to the rituals to the festivals to its people to every single detail is written with so much details that it feels like the city is breathing right before my eyes. Also the author has enlightened his readers about the hidden gems of the city, from dingy alleys to the forgotten restaurants serving authentic cuisines to the unique experience one can have in that city. Yes, it felt like I was holding the hand of a city guide, a.k.a, the author himself, and walking beside him, absorbing silently the sights and sounds as we hopped from one place to another.

The author's writing style is really articulate and is laced with strong emotions that is bound to move the readers deeply. The narrative is engaging as well as kept close to realism, hence readers will find it easy to comprehend with the dialogues. Also the dialogues are often ;aced with myriad of emotions from hilarious to heart breaking, they are going to hot the readers in a very striking manner. The pace is really fast, as there the protagonists travels from one city to another sometimes in a haste, or with a hope, or sometimes with a heavy heart.

The characters are well etched out through flaws and honesty in order to make them look believable in the eyes of the readers. The nameless protagonists is interesting, has so many shades in his personality, but as a whole, he is relatable in the eyes of the readers. Every scene in this book has been penned so thoughtfully and evocatively, from the love-making scenes to the heart breaking ones.

In a nutshell, this travelogue is one hell of a compelling ride through myriad of cities and its culture, customs, definitions, history and religions and its many souls, some clueless, some infidel, some confident and some wise through the eyes of a gay wannabe-writer.

Verdict: An enlightening journey of a gay writer across the country.

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Harper Collins India for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
Freelance Reporter for The Hindu, and my 1st book (and hopefully not last) Lean Days has been published by HarperCollins in March, 2018.
Visit him here

Book Purchase Links:


  1. thank you for reading and reviewing aditi. this is a more than generous review of the book. i hope it reaches out as much and encourages people to read the book as keenly as you have. 🙏🏻🙂

  2. May India live long and you. Write regularly good history about India. You can also visit: Verizon IndyCar Series


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