The story’s been told many times – a young person leaves a comfortable middle-class existence to chase adventure. In The Sly Company of People Who Care the callow globe-trotter in question is the novel’s unnamed narrator, a 26-year-old sports journalist from India who once spent an intoxicating week in Guyana covering a cricket match. Four years later, he returns and talks his way into a 12-month visa, though he has ‘no valid reason’ to be there. He later explains to the local woman who becomes his lover: ‘I came here a few years ago. I felt something inside that time. Sometimes you want to follow it.’
And follow it he does, immersing himself in the South American country’s rough-and-tumble culture, going as far as taking an ill-advised jaunt into the rainforest with a diamond prospector, and embarking on the romance that highlights his outsider status.
Bhattacharya elevates his tale above the common travelogue by meditating on colonialism’s legacy and questions of identity, layering his thoughtful explorations with raunchy creole dialogue and enthusiastic reggae references. The author – himself an accomplished Indian cricket reporter who has travelled in Guyana – denies his protagonist any facile epiphany; instead, the narrator spends the last day of his journey wandering the capital until a not unsymbolic rain begins to fall, washing away his ephemeral experiences.