Friday, March 19, 2010

A Review, And Another - If You Love Someone

Two reviews for 'If You Love Someone...', one by Dr. Ranjani, my friend and a writer herself, on her blog, the link for which is given below:

Another review, in her introduction of 'If You Love Someone...' at its launch in the Delhi Book Fari, by Smt. Anuradha Marwah, a novelist, social activist and academic. Anuradha teaches English literature at Delhi University.

'IF YOU LOVE SOMEONE...' - ANURADHA MARWAH, INTRODUCING THE BOOK AT DELHI BOOK FAIREverybody loves a good love story – and activists, feminists, professors of English are no exception to the rule. I think I would do grave injustice to the novel ‘if you…’ if I try and introduce it from a theoretical perspective. This is a book addressed to the reader and not to the specialist. So, it is as a reader I speak. Besides, a speaker who approaches her subject from the podium as a specialist is deadly boring anyway!

If you love someone is anything but boring – it is a great read. The story flows serenely through 236 pages bringing to life the 1970s in Mumbai and Goa, moving on to Atlanta, and back to Mumbai and Goa via a detour in Kerala. I use the word flow because the sea/ water is more than mere locale in the novel as is the sun – Aditya. The way Harimohan Paruvu describes it landscape is always symbolic suggesting the immensity and mystery of the cosmos and the relative insignificance of human desires, intellections and intentions. The prevailing tone of the novel is, I think, caught wonderfully in the striking cover picture.

For me the triumph in the novel is the characterization of Meghna - beautiful, intelligent, complex, extremely attractive, yet, instantly recognizable central character. Harimohan makes the reader fall a little in love with Meghna. She is an unusually bright student who matures into a formidable business-executive and entrepreneur - competent and ambitious - yet, so human. He places her in a time period that was restrictive for women in India but a woman like Meghna is impatient and dismissive of restrictions yet compassionate and loving to those who try and bind her down - parents or husband; children or in-laws. That at a point in her life, laughter should desert her, is grievous and unfair. The reader might ask herself: Why did it happen to Meghna? Were her choices wrong? Could she have lived her life differently? The answer might be yes for some; no, for others, but Harimohan has been able to take us through the process of Meghna's decision-making sensitively and non-judgmentally. So, once Meghna decides to love and laugh again - we are completely in sync with her, anxious that nothing should come in her way.

A question I always ask vis a vis a book I read - especially when it is a man writing about a woman is - is it empowering? Very significantly for me, Meghna is not a fantasy woman, even though she is stunning enough to turn heads at fifty. Harimohan has portrayed a real woman with concerns I recognize and sympathise with and in a prose that is never lugubrious, always lively and witty. As an instance, I will read out a paragraph that especially made me chuckle because of the images it evokes. This is Meghna getting ready to go to Atlanta family and friends pitch in to prepare her for the momentous event: (p108-109)

This is of course pre-liberalization India. A lot has changed. A trip to the U.S., for instance, is no longer such a voyage into the unknown. But I'm sure a lot of us recognize ourselves in the doting mother, the opinionated and advice-giving friends. Many of us would appreciate the innovative idea of using a rope to prevent branded air baggage from bursting or would be in sympathy with the compulsive urge to do everything cheaply - at minimal cost to ourselves, at least!

Of such intimate, heart-warming, and eternally familiar tropes is Harimohan's novel 'If you love someone' made!

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