From spies to city-bred detectives called Biplab, from veteran investigative journalists to college students like Sanjana learning how to snoop through a world of cyclothymic mood swings is the sort of writing destination that Kulpreet Yadav has chosen. He still, however, links his new-found writer’s inspiration to sophomore prying and eavesdropping instincts in a trainee feature writer for some health and fitness publication who is still trying to understand the difference between love, lust, and revenge. This is obviously the sort of book that many call pulp fiction that one reads and shelves without wanting to reach-out again… which is quite fine in today’s world that is swayed by Marie Kondo’s world of Kon-Mari where she recommends keeping not more than thirty books and consigning the rest to the recycle bin.
‘I just wanted revenge’
The story revolves around Sanjana, a nineteen year old college student, and her impulsively reckless resolve to seek out the murderer of her friend Simran. She decides to snoop around and soon enough has Nik, ‘a predator, a dangerous person who needed to be stopped before he struck again’ in her sight. Shady characters pop in periodically to give pace to the plot and quite a few of them enter laden with surprising twists. This novel is certainly going to be read and loved by teenagers and maybe a few adults like me though if you are looking for life-encompassing depths in the story-line, you may end up being a trifle disappointed. However, the pace, as I mentioned earlier, does not slack any time because solving crime ‘is a game of brain and nerves, not emotions and gut-instinct’ as Biplab tells Sanjana at some point. Obviously then, we have a heady mixture of both though some of the inclusions did intrigue me.
Where research falters
The author’s research does falter a bit sometimes, for instance, I was certainly not happy to discover Dharamshala chosen to talk about a temple where sacrifices still happen. My net-search lead me to an article that said: ‘Animal sacrifice is conducted in some temples of Nirmand and Anni of Kullu district, at God Dev, Kamru Nag and Kamaksha Devi temple in Mandi and in some temples of Rohru, Rampur, Kotkhai, Jhakri and Chirgaon of Shimla district and in Shillai area of Sirmaur district.’ It isn’t just the absence of Dharamshala in the list but also the fact that a court judgement exists that predates the incidents mentioned in the novel, that surprised me. This article quotes that judgement that states clearly that ‘no person throughout the state of Himachal Pradesh shall sacrifice any animal in any place of public religious worship, including all lands and building near such places of religious worship, which are ordinarily connected for religious purposes or in any ceremony/Yagya/congregation or procession connected with any religious worhship in public street forthwith’. However, I am willing to give the author a benefit of doubt as there were mentions of sacrifice but nothing as gory as this really happens on the pages. There are other issues like the mention of kalaripayattu and DNA testing that seem to have found their way in without ensuring accuracy and validity.
Let me talk about DNA testing before moving on to other inclusions. An article in the Economic Times mentions that these tests cost around thirteen thousand and despite this we find that this happens too frequently even before the preliminaries of basic investigation are done. There are around 7500 such tests done in India as compared to the over sixty thousand done in UK, which is an abysmally small number if we take the number of crimes committed annually. This simply implies that even our police force isn’t reaching out for such tests in their forensic labs but Simran’s murder seems to be poised for multiple DNA tests which is rather unreal.
The build-up to the character of Sanjana shows a petit teenager who is bold, beautiful, communicative, and ready to take chances… but when a reader suddenly finds her finds her removing ‘all my clothes except my bra and panties, and began to exercise, following a video on my phone’ to practice kalaripayuttu in her small room in a PaharGanj hotel, one is skeptical. This scepticism is amplified when the author admits that the protagonist has ‘first read about Kalaripayattu in a newspaper, and since then, I’d done considerable research into the fighting technique first developed in Kerala’. This isn’t enough as being aware of a martial art is simply not adequate because mastering kalari takes years of practice as ‘kalari is a very physically demanding martial art that thoroughly pushes your body to its limits – it is not just about kicking and punching’ (So informs Wikipedia). This form of martial art does not have a devoted strength developing regime which implies that though Sanjana may know a smattering of baffling moves, she cannot possibly be ready for CQB or close quarter combat in any way.
The last point where research may tend to disagree with what the author includes in this book is the mention of cyclothymia. Nik, according to the author, is suffering from Cyclothymia which is a mild mood disorder unless the patient has graduated from a depressive state to a hypomanic stage. By the way, Nik seems to be jumping in and out of his depressive phases like a circus clown and this is incorrect because periods of stable moods last only two months between long periods that need to be over-loaded with therapy. The symptoms involved include insomnia, difficulty in decision-making, becomes critical and complains… and suicidal thoughts are frequent during the depressive state. In the hypomanic stage, a person is brimming with spending sprees, heightened self-esteem, vanity, and talkativeness… besides cases of homicide, compulsive sexuality, and impulse control disorders. This is a rather complex disease and I felt Nik was not handled with care by the author.
Fairly readable despite research hiccups
However, despite the research hiccups, the book doesn’t disappoint as none of the incidents mentioned appear to be disconnected with the plot. There are passages that the teenage reader will love, particularly where Sanjana muses: ‘I thought about what Simran had said about his kiss. But for me, it wasn’t a trip to the moon and back in thirty seconds, it was a thirty-second trip to the middle of the ocean and back. So that was how it worked, different for different people.’ Some interpretations did baffle me because if Simran and Sanjana are attractive girls, why would any of them find it necessary to assume that they ‘didn’t have the curves or erotic gestures and mannerisms that made men go weak in the knees. We were simple girls looking for simple, lifelong love.?’
The relationship of a reader and what is happening on the pages is somewhat similar to how Sanjana surmises her situation as being in ‘the eye of the storm of my life now. And like the eye of a storm, he was calm and quiet, while just outside, there were dangerous, high-velocity winds blowing’ The final pages are where romance, lust, love, and another homicide converge, the characters come together like actors in a stage play, and between all the final spirals of destiny the reader has the mystery laid bare.
What I liked more than anything else was the sequence of events that strived to bring an active, mindful and gutsy girl closer to Biplab, a caring and thoroughly professional private detective and the way an understanding builds-up between them. I almost assumed the author wanted to bring the two together because love, after all, is not so much about the ephemeral glitter of the rich inheritors of Jor Bagh but about that subtle subliminal connection that happens only when two people begin having an intuitive understanding… but the author has a more dramatic and utterly filmi end for the novel. Read In love with Simran by Kulpreet Yadav to know how a successful author thinks.
Title: In love with Simran
Author: Kulpreet Yadav
Publisher: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
06 February 2019