Generation Y may not ever realize how it bleeds when your country is partitioned-wired fences going straight through your home and right through your hearts. It is very hard to make them realize what partition did mean to the people of India-especially in this era of LPG (liberaralization, privatization, and globalization). That extremely difficult task has been accomplished with extreme ease by An Indian in his novel India Was One.
The prologue of the story is a bit dramatic where Jai and Kahani-our protagonists of the story are found so near, standing side by side in two adjacent hills, yet so far-they are now from two different countries. The portrayal of their appearances and their state of mind is emotional and can easily touch your heart.
The curtain of the story is lifted in a monsoon season, under overcast sky, with light drizzle, around a canteen in a Mumbai college campus area. If you wonder it’s a perfect recipe for a romance to develop-then you’re quite right. But what amazes us, is the framing of the environment, like an artist the author has drawn an immaculate landscape of the wet weather all around. Narrative in his, own language is as followed-
“A few students were walking hurriedly towards the college under an umbrella, while some were wearing hooded jackets with their bellies looking big from the books they had tucked inside their jackets. Others were holding newspapers to cover their heads and had folded the legs of their trousers to keep them from getting wet as they tip-toed around the puddles that had formed. Some hawkers were selling hot fritters in a top covered cart open from all sides. Steam emanated from their woks as the wet battered bhaji hit the hot oil, making a sizzling sound. As soon as they came out of the frying pan, the hawker sprinkled them with a generous portion of dry spices. A few customers were savoring
them while the others were just taking the shelter of their covered carts to stay dry.”
Campus pictures, senior versus junior conflict, bunking of lectures, canteen hang outs are all wonderfully penned down by the author. Splashes of revealing of cultural diversity that made India so unique gives the campus life a new dimension. It’s like a mini India-where the main theme is unity in diversity, where the role players (students, of course) are culturally, mentally and linguistically so different-yet one invisible thread tied them together. In this conducive environment, the romance between our central characters flowed like a stream-well, it’s not wild storm, but a gentle, cool breeze. The story gains momentum with a trekking journey from Mumbai to Matheran, a romantic evening at Khandala and a memorable train journey from Mumbai to Bhabnagar. Descriptions are vivid, but the speed of the story is thoroughly maintained. However one thing we’ll like to mention-author might have taken some more freedom to describe the ‘rustic’ India during the train journey narrative.
There is a detailed description of a cricket match between two arch rivals-India and Pakistan, which forms the plinth of the next chapter. Description is detailed –too long, that sometimes we got afraid that the flow of the story might get struck. Another point-why the match is always between India and Pakistan? And why always Pakistan always loose? It is expected that a powerful columnist like An Indian will explore with some liberty in framing such cricket matches. Every nook and corner of the beautiful game has been explored testifying the fact that the author must be an avid fan of cricket.
There is a perfect framing of the Hindu way of marriage-a colorful marriage that has mesmerized the world with its culture and tradition for centuries. The honeymoon trip of our central characters is themed in Rajasthan. It’s not an easy task describing the picturesque state-with sand dunes, forts, camel safaris, wonderful dress, culture, sun sets, and ethnicity. But that has been crafted by the author with the skill of a master craftsman.
The story flows like a fountain-from marriage to honeymoon then return to Mumbai, then flying to the U.S.A, working of Jai in a corporate environment ,Kahani turning out to be a ‘skilled’ housewife-all pointing to the ‘they lived happily ever after’ type conclusion, until a news in the CNN stormed through their life.
What was the news? What effect did it have-not only to their lives, but to the billions of Indian? Will they be able to live together? will they ever be able to unite again? What will be the ultimate fate?
Hold your breathe! You have to read this classy novel in order to get all the answers. A contemporary fact like attack on Taj Mumbai has been described. Removal of fences along the border by the citizen reminds us of the removal of Berlin wall. Plight and suffering of common men, due to partition has come alive through description. The turmoil, the despair, the perplexity all painted –reminds us some of the classic works like Cracking India or Train to Pakistan.
No doubt that with a strong storyline and a crispy, palatable way of storytelling makes the novel an enjoyable one, but more than that the novel is a realization. What makes India-the land, sea, mountain, river or the ethnic diversity or the cultural cross difference or different states with apparently no similarity at all? The conclusion of the story tells you all
“You can travel the length and breadth of India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Mumbai to Kolkota, and not see a single Indian. You will see Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians Jains, Buddhists, etc. You will see Maharashtrians, Gujaratis, UPites Biharis, Bengalis, Tamils, Telugus, Malayalis, etc.
Or you will see Indians.”
Will we ever say proudly-‘I’m an indian?’
We’re sure that in near future we’ll be able to see more of his works.
If you want to read India, it’s a must read for you.