09 June 2009

I too had a love story by Ravinder Singh

This is LOVE? Really?
The last two books I read before I picked this one up were Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach and Saturday. On Chesil Beach is the story of a young couple set in the long-forgotten and usually-neglected period just before the 1960s began and birth control, rock-and-roll and other related revolutionary devices transformed our little planet, and Chesil Beach is the place in England where they spent their wedding night. Saturday spans one event-filled day in the life of a London neurosurgeon. Both these books, like this one, can also be called “love stories” but they are also literary masterpieces. To call Ian McEwan a “master storyteller” would be to use a cliché, so let me say instead that his words and sentences fill me with happiness; that the way he constructs his stories don’t just bind me to his books while I long to know what’s going to happen next, they are a great inspiration to me as a writer; and that his manner of strewing his work with analysis and insights in the most casual and unprepossessing way draws not just admiration but quite often even awe from me. With these two books still doing their quiet dance in my mind, it’s hard to describe the sheer plunge into aesthetic dismay I experienced as I started reading I Too Had A Love Story. Ploughing stoically along, I sought desperately for criteria against which I could recommend it and was finally able to conclude that it could be considered an important book as it documents a certain lifestyle and mindset at close quarters.

Since this is not a marginal lifestyle or mindset but a rather mainstream one – even if those in literary circles would prefer to ignore it as being worthy of nothing but scorn or perhaps a longsuffering tolerance, and often try to pretend doesn’t even exist – yes, it should be read and maybe preserved in a museum or prescribed in literary courses, with the particular commendation that it has been written by someone deep within that community who describes it here intimately, even as Anne Frank did her imprisonment and the times in which she lived, in her Diary. Further, this author has been artless enough to expose certain loutish aspects of behaviour and attitude of this community as well-established and normal – precisely those aspects which cause the so-called high-thinking ones to condescend to it. Here you have men who become enraged against their women when their breakfast is not served at the precise moment they demand it, and children who are nurtured to believe that one who wishes to establish affection with them must compulsorily bring chocolates on every visit. When taxi drivers refuse to drive into a flooded area, they are treated with wrath and offered bribes demanding that they do so.

Leaving the sneering, negative view aside, however, there is one rather lovely thing about people who live in this world, and that is their approach to romance. It’s sweet and pure, and they are able to savour it endlessly, much as those who consider themselves more sophisticated might savour a glass of mellow wine. This is rare in today’s world and anyone who can still do it is fortunate to be enjoying an endangered gift of humanity that is fast being replaced with a rude condom-in-my-wallet-just-in-case culture that is sweeping many good things away forever.

But then again the type of "love" presented in this book rather overwhelmingly comprises vigorous fluttering of the inept heart and the kind of baby talk for which I’m unable to select an appropriate adjective. To call it adolescent would be to ignore the cutting-edge biological discovery of hormones and sexual activity at puberty. To call it brain-damaged would be to insult a lot of people (judging by author Ravinder Singh’s blog) who truly believe that this is what real love is. I am intrigued to find so many who in this day and age continue to believe that “love” is just a titillation of the senses that you get for someone you have never met, and even after you meet her all you know is that she looks good and talks silly though she works for a software company too and is slogging away for her "CAT" (the common admission test to postgrad and fellow programs in management at various institutes in India) just like you are. In the world most of us live in, love encompasses a lot more than that, such as day-to-day adjustments, commitment to togetherness in spite of all kinds of obstacles, constant readjustment of goals to accommodate the aspirations of the other, and the never-ending striving towards compatibility in the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social and economic spheres. It’s a difficult and often messy matter. So when someone holds a woman he barely knows in his arms in platonic bliss and calls it the happiest hour of his life, you might smile fondly in sentimental indulgence – or you might slap your forehead and think, “Grow Up, Ravin. We feel for you, but your life lies ahead. You will find a real woman and you will find out what real love is. If you want to be a real author, go read some real books and find out how it works first.”

Apparently more than 10,000 people have read this book and it’s now touted as “a national bestseller” – perhaps through clever marketing and doubtless with the help of Infosys, for which Ravinder Singh works, and shaadi.com, through which he met his “love”. Narayan Murthy has wisely restricted his blurb to three well-chosen and accurate words describing this book, “Simple, honest and touching.” Anupam Mittal, founder and CEO of shaadi.com sticks his neck out a bit further and shows how little he knows when he says, “Only a person who has loved and lost, can pen such an emotional story.” Try Ian McEwan, Mr. Mittal.

1 comment:

  1. I too read the book by ravinder singh.. i read it and felt something unsettling wrong/missing with it...Couldn't make out what dat was...
    And i thot it might be wid me,my way of thinking... thanks to u... now i do understand it... its not a problem wid me its with the author... :)