Saturday, January 2, 2016

'We weren't lovers like that' by Navtej Sarna

Good writing is one which touches the heart, that is the one which will stay. 

There is cliched quote by Toni Morrison which says, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it”, which I believe is a fitting tribute to this book and its author Navtej Sarna. Give me one reason I could rate it anything below 5, a full five! There was no line which I found misplaced, each thought made perfect sense, each character so thoroughly pictured and there was so much I could relate to on a personal level. When did I ever read a novel which described the A H Wheeler Book Shop of Haridwar station, took me on a ride to Dehradun, its roads and shops with the parallel build up of treasured storyline? When was the last time I read a novel which celebrated nostalgia as much I do? This novel I believe is a gift to my habit of constantly trying to find gold in a husk pile(usually on my own). In its themes and instances it was so rich, that only upon its completion I understood why Navtej Sarna remarked in one of his interviews that its never difficult to write a first novel as one always know what to write, out of catharsis. It is the second novel where one constructs the subjects and the line.
Navtej Sarna creates the story of a Man's lifetime.

The book which is touted (and debated) to be a semi autobiography which explores the life of its narrator, Aftab, who happens to work in some Delhi media firm, based out of Connaught Place. Its written in form of a train journey from Delhi to Dehradun with 5 chapters, each on the intervening stations. Delhi, Saharanpur, Roorkee, Haridwar and Dehradun. The author goes back and forth in revealing his life(and thoughts) from his own childhood to his 10 year son and the novel which began as love story snowballs into an existential masterpiece (yes). The world he recreates, about his childhood and how many of the things which he does as a 40 year old have a connection to his past, a past which he has preserved within him, which people around him hardly know about. He laments and then cherishes his opportunity costs, in health, his lost love, the places chose to reside, career etc. Mina, his wife and who keeps her own wishes above their marriage divorces him for another man, taking with her their son. Rohini, who happened to be his first love(and a true love) gets lost midway and then almost forever, only to return back as a ray of hope when he treks his way back to his hometown, Dehradun. It is a yearning of man's pasts with his future who is somehow carrying the fragments of his broken present. It explores a thoughtful man's mid-life crises. One of remarkable aspects I liked about the book is its rich and vivid description of two things, thoughts and places. The way he describes each city (the novel has touched upon) esp Mumbai and Dehradun and paints each character, with meaning and relevance really makes this novel a complete story in itself. This book will be delight for anyone from any of the cities which were mentioned, especially someone who yearns for mountains in his daily life(wherever one resides). A big thank you to Navtej Sarna for penning this beautiful book and inviting a lot of the readers into a good(if not perfect) world of your story.

Rating: 8.5/10

Navtej Sarna is a Diplomat, an IFS Officer of 1980 batch.