Akash was standing on the parapet dangerously, about to end his life, when he finally decides he is in love and now has ‘an intense urge to record his feeling of deep love for Maria and life,’ and decides to live on. Throughout the novel I felt I was on the edge of some parapet that readers generally stand on, wanting to jump and hurtle down the chapters and the pages to be reborn reading a new book. But I didn’t…
There is some difference between standing on the parapet dangerously and standing there with an air of nonchalance. Writers, like anyone else, are known to adopt both these stances at different times in their lives… however, Ratnadip Acharya, the author of ‘Life is always aimless… unless you love it’ manages to display these stances effectively through the pages of his book.
The story plods on both slowly and without knowing where it really wanted to go… now this is a great tool when writers use it to spring surprise upon surprise in an unexpected sequence. I have employed this technique where you let the story tell itself without forcing it to follow what you may have in your mind… and most of the time it works. But then the story needs to stay connected, remain agile, and keep up this blitz of surprises till the end. So aimlessness, when harnessed, can lead to surprising output. Let’s just say that the plot in this book does remain aimless but fails to surprise the reader. So the author has successfully been able to put to work at least half of this theory of ‘let the pen tell the story’… or as the modern day writer will say: let the punches or the taps find their own way through the maze of a plot.
The feeling that I got as I read this one was that the writer was constantly egging himself on with all sorts of reasoning to graduate from short pieces to one long burst that people call a novel. No wonder then that the author makes the protagonist listen to Shobhaa De who tells him: ‘…short story collection does not have a market. So I suggest you try your hand at writing novel. It should be around 80 thousand words. You are on the right track. But do not be in a hurry to pen down a novel. Let an idea sprout in your mind naturally.’ All that I could murmur was, ‘What’s the matter with you, Shobhaa De?’
As I read on, I discovered quite a few dramatic howlers rushing at me with a large grin on their faces. I read them all and even smiled… so yes, the book does qualify as a pretty humorous read.
Now, would I really have ‘delineated the entire trip’ to someone, or can a meal at KFC be ‘expansive’, or would any of you have ‘planned all of a sudden’… because if you the sort who does all this, you will love the book. You will also love the book if you go ‘sniffing around her’ when you see a woman go by ‘swinging her lovely ass’. I have heard people complain that they ‘feel bore’ and my mind has a tendency to add the missing alphabet without billing the fellow for it… but when you are reviewing a work that has gone through editors, you are hardly expected to take in your stride sentences like: ‘Sometimes I do feel bore but most of the time I love being alone.’ Unless, and I lay a lot of stress on the word ‘unless’… unless these are necessitated because you want to develop a character in a particular way. Now, because I am liberal with optional escape routes, let me add here that readers who aren’t particular about such little transgressions will connect with the grammar as twins do and all will be well.
‘Let’s go to KFC. It’s a long time I had Chicken Finger from there.’
‘But it is very expansive. Besides, I am already stuffed,’ said Maria, heading towards the escalator to the second floor.
But it isn’t as if I was reading the book with an eye to seek only sentences that were missed by the edit team… there are good moments spread throughout and one of them is the way the author tries to promote a cleanliness. I know the novel was published well before Mr Modi began his broom boom, but he should be pleased to see that writers always voted favourably for it:
After finishing the eggs Akash crumpled the paper and was about to throw it when the old lady spoke, ‘Do not throw it here. Give it to me.’
She took the crumpled paper from him and stowed it away in another plastic bag.
‘I sit here every evening. I do not want this place to be dirty,’ said the old woman as she began to pack her things up.
The story is of ordinary moments in the rather ordinary life of the protagonist written in a slow, meandering sort of style. The protagonist too is trying to write a novel and aiming to get it published. Do follow the journey, if you wish to… because the writer on the pages of this book does need a lot of guidance, hand-holding, and moral support!
Details of the book:
Title: Life is always aimless… unless you love it
Author: Ratnadip Acharya
Price: Rs 150/- (in 2014)
25 November 2014