5 March, 2014
I recently joined a course on Cousera called The Fiction of Relationships, where part of the course was to study classic works of fiction that gave great insight into relationships. But you know something? I felt I learnt so much more about the 'fiction of relationships' from this one book - The Homing Pigeons' than I did from the whole first book that we studied.
This book. Is. Something Else.
We work, in the hope that we will get a raise. We love, in the hope that we will find a soul mate. And we earn, in the hope that we will never have to work again.
Its been a couple days since I finished this book, and I'm still reeling, and am having a hard time gathering my thoughts, so if this review is all over the place (I have a hunch it is going to be), then please forgive me, and check out the review on Pooja's blog On Books!, which I'm sure she'll be writing in a few days :)
Im not going to go into the summary of the book like I usually do, because doing so would be giving away a bit, and that'll spoil it for you. Not only that, this book is so much more than the relationship between Aditya and Radhika. It delves into each of them as individuals and what they each bring into the relationship as a result of who they are, as themselves.
Aditya is a young man, out of job as so many were during the recession, and so is pushed down to second place in the pecking order behind his wife. This rankles (obviously), so he spends most of his time outside the (hers, now) house. One one such outing, he gets completely smashed at a bar, and meets a beautiful stranger. That is where begins his journey into the sunken depths of society, where the rich come for satisfaction, and the service providers are relegated to the status of unmentionables. Aditya struggles (though not much) with himself in his decision to go down this path, but finally gives in, and soon after, starts seeing it as a kind of penance for his misdeeds.
Radhika is a recently widowed 32 year old, who is finally free from all her obligations, now that her step daughter is married. She finds that she now has all the freedom that she craved for all those years under a man's thumb, but has nothing to devote herself to. Due to her 'not tragic by conventional definition, but still tragic' childhood, she is estranged from her family and is completely alone, save for her man Friday, Laxman. This gives her plenty of time for contemplation and self-examination, which is how most of the book is spent.
Some of this story put me in mind of L M Montgomery's books. Radhika's background story reminded me a bit about Anne of Green Gables, with respect to Aditya, and her upbringing as well. Her Papa reminded me of Emily's (of the Emily series) father, with his soft affection for Radhika and that the book showed him as a quiet thinker.
Around 100 pages into the book, you know what the climax (yes, this one has a climax. Very filmy like.) is going to be. But you still keep going, out of sheer human curiosity (really, this one will tease you so much!), if not for the wonderful, wonderful writing.
And that brings us to the writing.
People, okay, I'll be honest with you here. If this rating was purely for the storyline ALONE, it would get only a 3 star. But the writing! I swear, there hasn't ever been an Indian writer (for me) that has had such beautiful words that I have resorted to ear marking pages. And I did. Several, if fact. Most of the story is spent in retrospect, but not a moment is spent in tedium for the reader. The author's knack of using analogy is very interesting and only adds to his worth as a writer.
I learned something through this book. When we hear of / see / read love stories, we're often happy for the couple. But what about the 'behind the scenes' action that went on before the happily ever after? It's not often that a book comes along with such severely flawed characters and is written in such a way, that you forgive them their sins at the end. That saying? 'The end justifies the means'? Very fitting over here, at least it was for me. I did not like a lot of the character's actions. The fact that at the end, I was ready to forget all of that, the reason for that lies solely with the author, and I applaud him for that.
The author's interesting observations about life and people that he has worked into the story makes the reading experience real insightful.
It was ironic that she had said what she had. I was immature enough to be in love and yet, mature enough to be married.
India is still a pretty conservative country, and we are restrictive by nature. Things that are discussed in this book are not exactly drawing room conversation friendly, but the courage to pull this off, and not detract from the quality (there are , after all, people who take up controversial topics just to be 'bold', but have no substance in actuality), is a mean feat, at which Bahri has succeeded remarkably.
From the sea of mostly mediocre Indian fiction today, The Homing Pigeons stands out for its daring heart and exemplary writing.
Bottomline: Read it for the exemplary writing of an Indian author.
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