Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Book Journey: Revelations of an Imperfect Life (Sankhya Samhita)

Now! How easy is it to wallow in self-pity, to etch your victim story when life’s handed you a handful of lemons? It is a temptation, yes, most indeed. Common. And instinctive. To tell your stories, your way. In which you are the hero in it, and you the means and the end. And if you have been unhappy, that was their doing. There they were, doing things to you to make you feel that way. They owed you light and sunshine, did they not?

In several of the social forums while discussing issues around emotional abuse and midlife depression, I have often stopped midway and wondered about a question that raised its head above the righteous proclamations floating in the air. I have often asked: is it really a one-way traffic, this unhappiness? This prey and predator relationship - who does it begin with, and how does it snowball? How can we tell a case of incompatibility from a case of suffering, and a case of suffering from a case of abuse? Why do we stereo typecast so much, well knowing inside our hearts that, that quite is not the whole truth, that there is another side to every story?

In a few apparently straightforward revelations of an imperfect life indeed, Tanaya (the protagonist) very much does just exactly that.

Her narration is simple on its surface, as she tells a story in first person of a girl who comes back to her hometown in Assam leaving behind a posh yet lonely life she was living in the city of Singapore alongside a frozen husband. Back home, cocooned and comfortable, she now turns around to face herself. Side characters form themselves around her in a comforting weave of warm support, a web of family of friends who seem to value her immensely and stand by her with unconditional love. The book is built up on throwbacks to her early childhood, coupled with conversations with herself and with others through which she unfolds her story and the working of her restless mind before the readers. Much of the book is around her introspections and reflections, culminating into making her mind up on the course of action hereafter.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But what I feel is, it is not. It is not simple to have the courage to explore the complications, the contradictions, the lack of knowledge of oneself. Iti is not easy to confess to your own limitations, to the faults and to the mind’s demons. It is not at all straightforward to take off the glasses of self-pity and narcissism, to be able to look at the opposite side with due fairness and consideration. Tanaya does just that. She braves the tall task of unfolding the virtues of her cold and distanced husband before the readers, risking the loss of their sympathy for herself. She gathers the courage to confide that it was not him but herself, the person she was slowly turning into, that she was really starting to be afraid of, which is why she left. She does not play a blame-game. She instead masters the confidence to look at things as they are, in plain light.

As a reader, I was simply blown away by the finesse with which Samhita has managed to draw these two characters – the wife’s and the husband’s. With an issue as common as everyone’s in today's age and time, she through her book has helped build a case for the society than one against those who are mere outcomes of its faulty system. She has looked at the very norms than at their helpless carriers, and that truly is where the problems lie lined up in a row.

In terms of critique, if I have to, I’d say that I found the throwback into the early childhood and the narrations around the family and friends from the present times slightly overly optimistic, than realistic. A small town brings with itself its share cosy warmth, indeed, but alongside it also does carry the virus of social conditioning deep-rooted in its people. The fact that Tanaya’s parents, sister and all her friends alike “got” her and understood the crisis of “emotional incompatibility” in its full legitimacy as much as we, as protagonists in our own individual stories, wish them to do is something I personally found a little far-flung. However, having said that, the unadulterated bliss of homecoming as an essential element of her self-discovery is an extremely potent idea in its own way. It is perhaps where it all started is where the keys lie!

All the very best to you, Sankhya Samhita. For all you know, you have just managed to clean a layer or two and reach closer to the truth of the illness that pervades the whole society today.