Sunday, 6 November 2016

Book Review : Everyone Has A Story

The novel 'Everyone Has a Story' by Savi Sharma is structured on the classic three acts of a romantic story: lady meets man, man goes away from lady and lady gets man back. Lady's goal is to become a writer.
It was a breezy read for me and appealed to me as a record of the good-heartedness in people.

The Good Parts
I don't read romantic genre novels or chick lit. I picked EHAS because of the title, which has been a favorite phrase of mine for years now. Whenever I go out walking, or stop in my car at the signal, I take a look around, notice the people and think what events they have had that day, what experiences they could have gone through, and what are they looking forward to on that day. Just letting the imagination loose on such thoughts gives such a heady feeling. I would think, so many people, so many perturbations and if some one were documenting all that stuff, what a pile of writing we would have because every one has a story.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I read in the newspapers that a young author has written a novel with my favorite phrase as the title. Sometimes it so happens that people don't read books. The books get themselves read. Thus this book made it to my reading list.

I have met young aspiring writers; quite often I happened to notice how loud-mouthed they are, trying to show off their cleverness and cuss words. That pompousness shows in their writing too. They tend to 'show-off' more than perform story telling in their work. You don't see such feigned ostentatiousness in Savi's writing and by implication I would conclude she is a simple demeanored person. Just as the bio on her website claims.

The elements of story telling in EHAS are kept simple. Take the characterization for example. There isn't much detail on the character sketching. Absolutely zero scenes on the lead characters' professional life. Nor are there events pertaining to their families, save a call from an aunty of Vivaan. The city, Pune itself is kept very light in description. This is fine from the standpoint that it keeps the focus on the main flow of the story. On the flip side, it makes the characterization a bit shallow in that you never get to know enough of their backgrounds and their motivations.

The font and the print quality are good. I liked the fact that the author and publisher paid attention to them as, these days I see many books in which these aspects are not upto the mark. As a not-so-young person, I didn't have to strain my eyes and facial muscles.

This is not a work of literary fiction; in fact on the cover it says inspirational romance, whatever that means. Though I was not expecting some mesmerising lines, and indeed there aren't any, I still found a couple of passages that are endearing :
'Do you know the worst thing a man can do to a woman?'
I shrugged. 'I am assuming it is being unfaithful.'
'No, it is making her fall in love with you when you have no intention of loving her back.'

'I want to meet people who are different from me, but people with whom I can still be the same. I want to see things with new eyes and listen with new years. I don't want to come home whole; instead I want to leave a piece of me in each place I have been. And thus, it would be an even exchange, as I take a piece of each place I visit.'

There were three parts in EHAS that I felt were weak. Meaning they should be been more more relatable. Meaning they should have been more touching. Meaning they did not appeal to me.

Why only this guy?
The first unappealing part was the reason why Meera wanted to write Vivaan's story. Why this guy and why his story only? In her job she interacts "with different people from different places, each one having their own different stories" [pg 5]. She visits the cafe 'Coffee & Us' every weekend "listening to amazing authors." She even says, "My heart was aching to tell a beautiful story which would change people's lives." Reading these sentences, you would think that there would have been so many occasions to write about those different type of people, their different stories, there ambitions and fears, motivations and dreams. But she doesn't.

She decides to write the story of a guy who comes to the book launch of an author named Arjun Mehra. The guy is Vivaan, an assistant branch manager at Citibank. Now she feels like writing his story. Why?

Because he wants to travel. As Vivaan says, "I have money, status and success but I am still not sure what my purpose really is. I do know that there are days I want to escape the life I am living and grab my bags and just travel," [pg 10].

When asked what he thinks he will find when he travels, he says, "There will be no one who will follow me around, demanding things from me. There will be no one pressurizing me to meet deadlines. Money comes with a price, and for me, the price is freedom and a real life. I hope someday I can make up mind to chase my dreams." This answer deeply impresses, inspires and intrigues Meera, and wants to learn more about him. Good for you Meera, but what about me, the reader?

First of all, Vivaan comes off as an immature person who doesn't know his purpose in life. Secondly, the reason that he wants to escape from his day job and get away from it all is that there would be no work pressure and deadlines. Well, well, this is such a commonplace urban professional talk, that it barely comes off as impressive, inspiring or intriguing. Anyways, first pieces of work tend to have autobiographical elements, and I presume that what gets Savi interested is what is shown as for Meera. No problems. This is her first work. As authors write more, their characters would be more well-rounded and would be written keeping the readers in mind.

Old man in Paris
The second unappealing part was the conversation with an old man in Paris. Vivaan is sitting on a bench in a park and eating, when an old man in a business suit starts a conversation. I have been to a host of different countries but old men in business suits never came out of the blue and inquired why I am in that country. When Vivaan does not reply, the old man persists to ask why he was in beautiful Paris. If I were in that situation, I would have got worried and called my friends or the police.

In my experience, conversation ice-breakers between men happen differently. Of course strangers have talked to me. But, going into the love life and then lecturing on that subject! Difficult to happen. Politics, yes. Cars, oh sure 100% chances. But love? Not sure. And this....?
"Love is the strangest thing. When you have love, you will be over the moon and it will seem as if nothing can stop you. Love is something that opens your eyes to new discoveries, even in old places. You want to discover the wonders of the world all over again with the person who holds your heart in their own. When you lose it, all that once seemed to make the world around you will shatter." [pg 104]
Uh-ho, not going to happen in real life. Difficult for me to fathom such a conversation. I grit my teeth, suspended my disbeliefs and somehow got through that chapter.

Too sudden
The third unappealing part was the way Vivaan decides to come back to Meera. What exactly makes him change his mind? Guy is separated from lady. He is travelling and thinking a lot about her. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. That we know, but is that all and a strong enough reason? He keeps thinking about her and realizes that he needed Meera in his life. Suddenly he realizes he doesn't care about travelling. No particular reason or heart-touching incident is shown. A weak turning point, I should say.

A teary eyed woman.
Somewhere along my reading, I realized that Meera constantly bursts into tears. It was a bit amusing to guess how long it would be before the tears flow again, and boy she doesn't delay. Look at the following lines:
  • I wanted to cry. [pg 31]
  • My eyes started to fill with tears. [pg 44]
  • ... my eyes were filled with tears, [pg 51]
  • I wiped my tears. [pg 57]
  • I wanted to cry once again. [pg 59]
  • Tears of happiness welled up in my eyes, [pg 63]
  • 'Thank you so much for such thoughtful gifts!' I said as tears of happiness formed in my eyes. [pg 65]
  • 'Come on Meera, don't cry,' Kabir said as he noticed my eyes begin to fill up, [pg 83]
  • Many times I would read what I had written and cry. [pg 86]
  • Tears began to form again... [pg 89]
  • I conjured an image of my beloved Meera. She was sitting in her dark room, tears flowing hotly down her cheeks. [pg 107]
  • She cried every single day after you left, Vivaan. [pg 127]
  • Meera burst into tears and started leaving. [pg 131]
  • I could see Meera break down, but I had to continue. [pg 134]
  • Meera was now crying as hard as I was. [pg 136]
  • Tears streaming down my face, I ran to my car. [pg 141]
  • My tears started to flow again as the rain fell harder. [pg 142]
  • There was my Meera, with tears in her eyes [pg 170]
  • My eyes filled with happy tears. [pg 174]
A few sentences should have been written better. They are:

I watched the man walk away through the dusty window. [pg 16]
My friend absently cleaned the counter between us. [pg 16]
My voice was low, quiet. [pg 129]
She looked up, stunned, and she wiped her tears. [pg 51]
I got out of bed and dressed, actually looking forward to the day in front of me. I took a quick shower, truly looking at myself in the mirror... [pg 121]

A quaint old guy
There is this old author Mr. Arjun Mehra, in whose book launch Meera sees Vivaan for the first time. This Mr. Mehra tells Meera: 'What's your story, young girl?' Addressing a 26-year old woman as a young girl is an irritating Indianism that I abhor people using. Then Mr. Mehra addresses Vivaan, who is the same age as Meera: 'Sir, what do you do for work? What's your story?' The lady is a young girl and the man is a 'Sir'. Damn. And oh yeah Mr. Mehra, women in Pune don't work?

Later Mr. Mehra sends a letter to Meera in which he writes: "Remember that a great writer doesn't just put his heart into his book but his reader's too" [pg 64]. Damn damn. Women don't write books?

My thought about him was: 'Sexist bastard, how come he is in this novel?' He maybe an aged person from different times, but if I were the author, I wouldn't let such people in my writing.

To conclude, I should add that the three unappealing scenes or things I nitpicked on, in any way do not reduce my liking of the book. I can say that Savi Sharma is a promising author from whom we can expect lots of good work in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a review, amazing, it is as good as I read the book now :)