Naresh Kumar is the average middle-level bureaucrat who will never make it to the top. A responsible husband and father, he has to worry about his childless daughter’s problems with her husband, and about his son’s flirtation with law-breaking. He also has to deal with his attraction to a colleague, a widow.

Naresh Kumar is corrupt in the most unselfconscious way. It is, after all, his dharma as a householder to take care of his family. Except, according to the same scriptures that dictate this, it is also getting close to the time he should renounce his family and move into the wilderness.

Naresh Kumar is a character who could only exist in India. And Amitabha Bagchi’s The Householder is a novel that could only have been written in India. As Mint says: “Even amid the utter immorality of their acts, they (the characters) are as hard-pressed as you and I to simply survive everyday life, and more sensitive to the softer aspects of existence than you and I can hope to be with our deadened metropolitan senses and sensibilities.”

Aren’t we all as helpless as Naresh Kumar?