Reviewed by Kirstyn Corbett
We’ve all heard the dreaded tales of “the other man”, but it’s not too often that the other man competes with the current woman. It’s a boy meets boy world in Farhad J. Dadyburjor’s The Other Man. Set in modern Mumbai with the overarching oppression of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code outlawing gay sex, Ved keeps his Grindr notifications well hidden from his family and peers. Grappling with his heart’s desires while succumbing to the pressures of being the perfect son to his business-owner father and socially concerned mother lands Ved in hot water when he agrees to marry Disha—the perfect woman, according to his oblivious and doting mom. Despite their quick friendship, Disha still lacks particular qualities that enable Ved to experience desire; however, Carlos, the charming and upbeat American visitor Ved meets on Grindr, doesn’t—and boy, oh boy, there is plenty of desire with Carlos. Despite his engagement to the ever-perfect Disha, Ved finds himself entangled with Carlos and smitten by his bold ways and heart-stopping good looks.
Written in third person limited, readers get a taste of the author’s writing background and how it contributed to his journalistic writing style. Dadyburjor’s professional background working as a contributing writer and editor at numerous high-profile magazines has led him to immerse himself in journalistic writing and adopt a direct style and matter-of-fact tone that trains readers to grasp the main points. Following up his debut novel, How I Got Lucky, Dadyburjor is a writer on the rise.
This contemporary romance novel diversifies the vast fiction and romance genres with a tale as new as time by writing an LGBTQ+ protagonist and romance while immersing readers in traditional Indian culture. The Other Man contributes to the growing movement of LGBTQ+ contemporary romance novels that have risen in popularity in the last decade, diversifying the stuffy romance genre with modern tales of love that exclude none. Like many romance novels we readers love to hate, this meet-cute will have you eyeing that cutie behind you in the coffee shop one too many times and questioning if that tinder match is your one true love. Between the meet-cute, betrayals, confessions, and a classic exposing, The Other Man unabashedly claims its place on the romance shelf as a worthy contender. However, with uncensored glimpses into Ved’s mind and refreshing candor surrounding the sexuality and love that exist in gay relationships, Dadyburjor has no qualms with proudly announcing to the fiction and romance genres that this boy loves boy story isn’t as innocent and demure as its brightly-colored cartoon cover may suggest—talk about not judging a book by its cover, which is a lesson that those surrounding Ved should have implemented.
The characterization in The Other Man is nothing short of strategic, with love interests of Ved’s past, present, and future embodying the parts of himself he fears he’ll become, as well as fears he never can become. Early in the novel, readers meet Akshay, Ved’s only ex-boyfriend and the one man he’s ever loved. With reckless abandon and pure selfish drive, Akshay broke Ved’s heart and jaded his idea of love while driving him to resent and fear the inevitable familial pressures put on an eligible Indian bachelor. Readers then meet Carlos—or JaipurVisitor—the young, optimistic, openly gay, and positively-himself American man visiting Jaipur. With a few bold messages exchanged on Grindr, Ved realizes that Carlos is more than a potential hookup—Carlos could be Ved’s future. Not only do Akshay and Carlos’s characters serve to drive the plot forward, but both characters act as projections of Ved’s hopes and fears. Akshay left Ved to marry a woman he could never love and pursue a respectable job to appease his parents and bring pride to his family name, much like Ved begins to do as readers are dropped into these tense familial moments at the beginning of the novel. On the contrary, Carlos’s pride in his sexuality and openness to the world beckons to Ved as the life he’s always wanted, yet never been able to pursue—both because Ved wants to satisfy his parents, and because homosexuality is outlawed in India, a law that is mercifully repealed. The juxtaposition of these two characters embodies the internal struggle Ved faces and hints at the two paths he must choose between before the final chapter. Whether or not Ved becomes Akshay or learns to embody Carlos is a journey Ved ventures on while balancing his ever-present fiancee, Disha.
While the novel focuses on the romance between the protagonist and his love interest, Dadyburjor ambitiously tackles the concept of familial love as he interweaves it within the story. With Ved’s parents divorcing during his childhood when his father’s business found success, Ved’s preconceived ideas of love are arguably quite jaded. Still, Ved loves both his mother and father and tirelessly pursues their hopes and dreams to satisfy them both—his dad’s dream of passing down the family business and helping it flourish with his mom’s dream of being the perfect husband to the perfect wife and growing the perfect family she feels was ripped from her grasp. Despite the strain and pressures his parents place on his already-sagging shoulders, Ved learns how to develop and achieve his own aspirations while maintaining the loving relationship with his parents he’s always had.
With stories of love from all angles of one’s life, you’ll learn to be more thankful for those that love you and more excited for those that will after closing the final chapter. Now, don’t let the romance genre fool you: The Other Man tackles true love and familial love while grappling with identity formation and cultural impact, using each of these dramatically different ingredients to serve readers with a plate full of truth that promotes deep introspection. With Ved’s tales of turmoil and stories of success, The Other Man proposes the question as old as time, what cost will you pay for true love? You better have a solid answer before starting page one because The Other Man will leave you questioning your preconceptions of love and your life’s purpose.