Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Book Review: 03:02 by Mainak Dhar

(A commissioned review)

What would you do, if one fine time in the middle of the night, time stops still? What would you do if one day you're cut out on stock, of food, water, medicines. Electricity. What if at one moment, at one sudden moment, the life that you raced so far comes to a surprise halt? What would you do if a science fiction terror thriller suddenly becomes the world?

The novel 03:02 pulls us right up by our collars and stands is up against a few differently questions. And the questions look back at us with a sense of dark fear, a deeper insecurity. And, thereafter, with a sense of evoked courage that we would never know to exist unless you're struck the way they were struck.
How do you face it, when everything you knew to be your world and your rights vanish one day, leaving behind a stranded city telling of terror and impending doom? Right! You discover yourself.

The story of 03:02 is essentially one of self discovery, and of a journey of being stuck amidst nothingness. It is a story of people. It is a story of humanity. And it is a story of love.

Love, wrapped in uncertainties of a lifetime. Love, that knows no destination. Love, nevertheless. For the living, for the alive.

The clichés of boy meets girl and kissing scenes over piles of corpses are there indeed, as is there the long, crafted, written out speeches that normal people don't speak but characters here in this book manage to do. There are continuities when, after a sudden news strikes or a sudden truth drives home, all that you ask as a reader is some pause, some rest, a paraphrasing break. They don't come in time or in a way you think logically fits the narration. It becomes a drag at around the third quartile and you find yourself scanning pages than reading, to watch the news headlines. There's melodrama, indeed, of boy weds girl as the town burns down, and long, elaborate, repetitive, apparently heroic even though unnecessary and overtly explanatory speeches all over, in which the janitor the commander and the terrorist speak the same language, and worse, relentlessly. The Prime Minister keeps calling in, and the same scenes of encounter repeat over and over again. We overlook to be reminded of what happened to solo lives and saplings, or of the melange of emotions that lie beneath the ongoing. We get into commentary mode, than reflective, and deliver the same dialogue to the same person every time we leave for war. What was essentially a survival instinct suddenly shed its humility and transforms - before you know - into a national anthem chanting patriotic mission, and even goes to borrow the name Netaji is known after. The novel suddenly explodes into larger than life, too large to contain within the known realms of pathos and anxieties of the looming danger. It goes far past the rooftop!

Yes, there are those glitches you wish away.

But then, the gravity of the situation takes over you and makes you a part of the crisis. And there you go, leaving the critique behind, to go plant saplings so that you can cultivate cross in the back yard of your condominium. For remember, you still haven't figured out what to eat after the common stock deplete. Community kitchen, make shift hospitals, schools for night's refuge… to missiles and sit launches, and going back to pen and paper first principles to kick start things back to work one by one. It is a make belief, yes, and yet you admire it for its courageous imaginations. Because, the story through its many super theatrical imaginations manages to do it finally. It gives us a stern reality check in front of which our daily sprints at workplaces or at home fades faint.

I loved the book, overall. Despite the gaps. For it does to your conscience what it wanted to. Because, you stop to feel, fear and arise. Because, you imagine, it could be you!

I rate this a 4 out of 5.