Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Yes, Life is What We Make it

   I don’t know if it is a mere coincidence or luck but it is happening with me. Last month, after a break of more than four months, I decided to go on reading spree. I picked up three books, taking them guaranteed for their similarity. But no, each one of them was unique, poles apart in subject matter. I have already written about two, here is third one, Life is What You Make it by Preeti Shenoy. I have been following her, reading reviews of her books but unable to read any, just because my wish list was already very long and then in between I kept picking books recommended by friends, social media etc. As she has written many books, I wasn’t sure for which one I should go. I followed a friend’s suggestion. And it was indeed a good one.  

Life is What you Make it begins like a usual, popular love story and just after a few pages I was sure how it was going to end. Nonetheless, I was enjoying it, as I love romantic novels, when suddenly it shattered my perspective and took hold over me by its narrative. I hadn’t expected such a sharp turn in the middle of the story. Of course, there is mention of mental illness in the prologue, but the way the story turned was beyond my imagination.

Life if full of surprises, no doubts about that. Tide may turn either way, it can take you in or it may throw you out. But once you are in, into the deep water, it’s all up to your courage and conviction, your ability to fight and to struggle, and your desire to keep yourself alive. And that is what happens with Ankita Sharma, the protagonist of the novel. She is a disciplined, obedient girl who wants to excel in life. But a small passage of love in her life changes the course of her life. Had only she listened to her inner voice, it could have been altogether a different story. But that what we call the destiny.

A sensitive issue has been dealt in the most sophisticated manner. It is a book that gives us hope: hope to survive, hope to struggle; how to be winner, how to find alternatives and above all hope to not to be hopeless. Also it warns us not to be blind to follow a race: race for materialistic life or for dreams or for wealth or for happiness. This is my conclusion as a reader, writer’s perspectives or yours may vary.  But it is a good book. The readers looking for an intense love story may face disappointment but those who just want to read a good story will certainly enjoy it.

Preeti Shenoy is author of many books. Apart from Life is What You Make It, her other books are 34 Bugglegums and Candies, Tea For Two and A Piece of Cake, The Secret Wish List and The One You Cannot Have, It Happens For a Reason, Why We Love The Way We Do and most recent one is It’s All in the Planets. She is also an artist and is based in Bangalore.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Love in The Exile - Surkhet Valley to Kathmandu

            As my eyes fell on the piles of the printed copies of my first novel A Rose on The Platform, I noticed another stack of books, which had been printed and brought along with my book for the distribution. The first impression that the title of the book, The Exile, left on my mind was that it might be a political story.  Then I noticed that the writer, Bir Singh, was from Nepal. I felt an immediate affinity. Nepal has been almost a second home to me. Not only that I have many relatives over there but also my only sister is married to a Nepali. I have spent some memorable moments in bordering areas of Nepal during my growing up years.

Though from the day one I noticed the book, I wanted to read it, it took me a few months as I had been busy promoting my own book. Now when I have finished reading it, I really feel good that I read this book. It was a refreshing experience. I have read a few books and stories in Nepali but not anything written by a Nepali writer in English.

After knowing that writer was a Nepali, my impression about the book that it might be a political story got more solid as Nepal has been witnessing continuous political turmoil for many years now. But I was wrong.

The story of exile is very simple. It is a love story of two teenagers belonging to two different castes: Ruplal is a lower caste and Keshari is from upper caste. Finding that the guardian of social barriers would never concede their union, they elope from a small hilly village in Surkhet Velly to the largest city and capital of the country, Kathmandu.
What they had thought would be a simple way to start a new life, turns out to be an awful journey. Na├»ve and simple, as they are, they are cheated and rejected by the clever and dishonest city people. Not only that even to find a house, Ruplal has to struggle a lot. These simple and small incidents have been narrated in such a flawless and lucid manner, it grips readers mind immediately. The writer doesn’t intend to talk big things, he simply concentrates on very mundane and small steps, incidents of our day to day life; how two teenagers unaware of city life, the boy is only high school educated and girl is illiterate, struggle to find a house, to find a job, to deal with people etc. But these simple things underline brutal and tragic aspect of social evils that have been plaguing our societies, particularly Hindu society, for centuries. And even big city like Kathmandu is not an exception.
When I asked the writer whether it was a real story, he responded positively, ‘The story it narrates is realistic. It is based on a few events that occurred in my native village. Such events are almost frequent in our country, Nepal. Some five months ago, in the neighbouring district of Kathmandu they killed a boy of early twenties who being a dalit eloped with a Brahman girl. Situation is still horrible in Nepal.’

Then at the end of the story, after many years of his arrival in Kathmandu, the protagonist of the novel visits his village Gandapani though in the darkness of the night. What he finds there terrifies him. The protectors of caste had not only destroyed his home but also the lives that had nourished him. And Keshari too had lost so many things. He somehow places her letter to her mother at her brother’s house, in which she, who has by now learned to read and write, opens her heart to her mother, the story of her elopement with Ruplal.

The writer believes that writing can change the society. ‘Of course, it does. Writing can bring about a desired change in the society. It pokes the ear of stake holders, politicians and phenomenally the media persons who propagate the issue raised by a writer. When the issue airs around everyone, it creates discussion that definitely finds solution.’

Bir Singh has certainly made a place among emerging writers in Nepal writing in English. By profession, he is a teacher and lives in Kathmandu. Though he started writing long back 1982, this is his first attempt in English, which is certainly remarkable and worth reading, and more so if you (Indians) want to know what is going on in your neighbouring country. His other books are in Nepali, which include Chetana, Pradesi, Abhiyan and Andheri Raat.

About the Book:
Title: The Exile
Writer: Bir Singh (Kathmandhu, Nepal)
Publisher: Mahaveer Publisher, Delhi.
First Edition: 2016
Price: £5.95 $ 7.99
Available on Amazon and Leading book stores in Nepal