Romance that is shaken, not stirred
Review of ‘You, me and a secret’ by Ganga Bharani
Yes, this thin book with just one hundred and twenty pages is all about romance that is shaken, not stirred because a murderous intent hovers over the pages. I am tempted to write that this tale by Ganga Bharani is like ‘your hip which is sandwiched between the blouse and the sari…’ where one conceals a thriller and the other a romantic interlude.
Well, the story, like the format that the author has chosen, hops from the sublimity of romance to the gory moments that only the mind of a scheming fraudster can possess. ‘Just you, me, and a secret’ by Ganga Bharani is a thrilling battle between the past, present, and the ‘nothing’ called future… and if this sounds too abstract, let me add that as I turned the pages, they chanted in unison: ‘Don’t say I’m dead. I am all alive, standing right in front of you. I am not dead. Trust me.’
The tale is simple and allows the evil intent of Ashruth who collaborates with Sheela and hatches a plot to manage enough capital for their planned hospital. Sadly, the character of Ashruth is not developed as the doctor that he really is… but I guess, it is because the author was busy giving him the evil tint all the time. Ganga does this with a lot of aplomb and has the reader tied well into the plot without giving away a single stray clue. Other intriguing moments include the swapped characters of Meera and Deepthi as also the mysterious relationship between Nakul, the poet and Santosh. I was continually intrigued by questions like… Is Meera really dead? Or… How is Nakul connected to the entire plot? Or… Will Deepthi and Nakul possibly meet? Or… Is Ashruth really what he pretends to be? A rough estimate of the book aiming to be a thriller is that the reader needs to be kept on tenterhooks and this is what the work succeeds in doing.
How many thriller writers can vouch to write a language that will make the reader laugh or be tickled? Very few… and Ganga does this with every bit of unrestrained command. I loved the passage where Ashruth ‘tried his best to hold his breath, pulling his tummy in as deep as he could. He somehow managed to lock the fourth button but when he released his belly out, the button flew across the room… he bent down to look for the derailed button. He looked under the bed, under the dressing table and all over the floor. He tried looking for it under the cupboard but couldn’t look under the cupboards as his over-grown tummy did not let him bend further.’ My personal opinion is that even readers of novels which have murders and killings need to get their well-deserved giggle-break. The author has ensured that her mini attempt offers just this bit and not any more or the adrenalin flow just might get drowned in ripples of giggle-wiggles that may then interfere with the plot and the way it is supposed to move on.
Frankly, I wasn’t completely pleased with the way the characters were left somewhat incomplete and crippled and some make only a guest appearance. There are parts where the book feels like I am watching a Bollywood flick where the Director is in a hurry to connect the dots and move on. This may be fine for a movie but a book needs to delve deeper into the games that the mind plays. What I am trying to say is that the novel could easily have been longer because it is the only way a writer can make the characters do things to show than a reader being told in one prosaic and precise paragraph what the intent is. This happens in the book once too often and so I think it is essential that I include it in this review.
The language is sometimes intriguingly sloppy or else sentences like ‘I scripted a romance scene where he slides the ring into Meera’s hand and makes love to her’ would have been vastly different. Why would Meera be the sort of girl who is unable to ‘even imagine breaking up once this scene happens to her.’ Scene? Sometimes, the way we communicate verbally is not the way we would want to write… but then such moments pop up sparingly and I am rather happy about their rarity.
The secret, when it was finally revealed to me, made me restless. Can people really be so ruthless? Are there characters in real life willing to do this and then weave a smiling bluff around their lives? The book, despite its short-comings, manages to pose a lot of ethical questions and this is where it probably out-runs many other novels in a similar genre.
What is the novel really about? Is it the preponderance of criminal instincts in the modern day world catalysed by purely fiscal pressures? Is life revisiting the savage instincts of our ancestors? Is society compelling a re-run of the survival of the richest? Well, I guess every reader will probably have a different answer but the author does have a rather funny way of philosophising through her romantic-thriller: ‘Either I get to know my past and live with my past world; marry this pumpkin and cook the rest of my life with it.’ Or what? Read the novel to know what the other alternatives are.
Title: Just You, Me and a Secret
Author: Ganga Bharani
Publisher: tales4 Publications
Price: Rs 150/- (in 2015)
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On Amazon: Just You, Me and a Secret
16 September 2015