About the author:
Preeti Shenoy is an author and artist. She believes life is the biggest teacher. She is an avid blogger, whose poetry has also been published. This book is her second published work.
My thoughts on the book:
So we have the protagonist, Ankita. She’s a 20 something girl who seems to have issues from the past that haunts her present. In the prologue, we start with her sitting on a chair outside the doctor’s office, mulling over how they’ve come a long way to get her treated. Now that start is perfect. It’s that conflict that pushes the story toward an ending, and makes the reader wonder why she’s at a doctor’s office in the first place. But then, in the next paragraph, it appears as if the protagonist is still traveling to the doctor’s office. And we’re taken through a drive. Major confusion here and that doesn’t do the story good.
The story begins as a flashback. We’re shown letters that Ankita sends to Vaibhav and Vaibhav’s reply. As the story moves, we come to know that Ankita’s parents are very old-school (for the lack of a better term) and don’t approve of her being with other guys, even if in a group, or allow her friends who are boys to call her at home. So they begin to sneak around, doing what they can to stay in touch. Guess love is like that.
The story moves to Ankita’s life at college. This part of the story goes well. It’s kind of like settling in, finding new friends, etc. She gets elected into the school’s office bearers group. The campaign part is fun too. The story goes smoothly till the second guy comes into the picture. Abhi, the guy who she meets at an inter-collegiate event, begins to woo her. Now, good for her part that she tries to tell Abhi about Vaibhav and stuff, but if she is really in love, then it feels really strange that she’d start feeling for Abhi so suddenly. Especially with her talking to Vaibhav and pretending all is well all along. Fast forward and Abhi proposes that Ankita stay in the same city and college so their relationship continues, but Ankita refuses because her parents would not understand, and more so because she’s got into the best college in another city. She even refuses to guarantee that she’ll stay in touch with him because she felt it silly. (If she could stay in touch with, and sneak calls with Vaibhav earlier, this casual brush off for someone who was right near to her and who she “loved” felt very out of character.) The events that follow leave a big mark on her, and she leaves the city on a sad note.
From this point, and her new college life for her Masters degree, the turnaround in her character is quite stunning. She becomes very, maybe even too competitive, and starts seeking perfection. She has affections for one of her new classmates, and kisses him. When her academics seem to be going well, her parents find her “love letters” and turn on her. In front of her, they burn the letters. From here, her mind cracks and she begins to lose it. The problems arise and she leaves going to college. Her parents take her to psychiatrists to try and solve her problem, even trying to force her to return to college. She’s taken to NMHI where she finds someone who’s willing to listen to her, understand her problems and help her get past them. And we move to the ending which culminates it all.
What I liked in the story is the simple language and narration. It’s a quick read if you have some time on your hands. It’s inspiring to the extent that it tells you problems are temporary and you can get past them if you believe. Yes, the story does have elements of a love story, but it isn’t completely one.
What I didn’t like in the story is that you are left much confused. The prologue is conflicting, and the characters very shallow. It’s difficult to think that when your daughter is excelling in the field she’s chosen, any parent would react in that cut-throat way to finding a love letter that HAS a date and is known that it’s long back and target their daughter’s mind health, no matter how strict they are. You don’t get to know why Ankita begins to lose her mind suddenly, if it’s one thing or a combination of different things. The title is only justified with an epilogue that happens fifteen years later. You start to think the plot somewhat quarter or half way into it, so knowing what might happen leaves you disappointed, and also makes our feeling of sadness or sympathy with the protagonist less.
Overall, I think this is a one-time read. I can’t for the life of me figure out why the book is as popular as it is. I don’t think it is a bad book, but it’s confusing why it is titled so. It’s a really nice message, I agree, but the story doesn’t bring it out like it needs to.
Title: Life Is What You Make It
Author: Preeti Shenoy
Publishers: Srishti Publishers
Price: Rs. 100
(April 12th, 2013)