About the author:
This is perhaps the first time that I am reading a book and not knowing exactly who the author is, other than that he is an Indian. I did search to see who he is, but I didn’t get his name, just that he was born and raised in Mumbai and now stays in L.A.
Cover and blurb:
From the description and cover, I could imagine a situation where India was divided into two countries. It was hard to imagine the situation but that’s what I thought the story would be about. Coming from an Indian author, I felt it would have been as difficult for him to write it, as it was for me to imagine it.
We all have, at one time or another, through our words (albeit in a casual, offhand way or to place where we are from in the country) called ourselves as North Indian or South Indian. Possibly even while discussing recipes for our favorite food items, we’d have told it to be so. But could we imagine a time in the near or distant future when there would be two separate countries like that? North India and South India? Where there’d be political turmoil and a barbed wire fence separating the nation across the middle? Well, that’s the premise on which this novel starts, and we are introduced to a couple Jai and Kahani looking at each other through binoculars on either side of the “border”. The story then enters flashback mode, and we are taken to the couple’s college days, to the time they first met and how their relationship developed, how they got married, where they went for their honeymoon, and how they settled abroad before hearing of the civil unrest that split the nation into two nations overnight.
So what is different in this book till the split happens? It sounds like yet another love story, which it possibly is, but it is much more than “just” another love story. The author doesn’t make it only about love, or their moments of romance. He tells it as it happens, and that’s what is needed I feel to make it believable. Love at first sight yet something that develops as they progress. Fun moments of friendship that are so true-to-life in college days, the excitement brought about by the monsoon, the tension of avid cricket fans during an India Pakistan match and the dreams in young eyes as they look ahead. The difficulty in getting settled abroad which we have faced or known someone who have faced it, and that desperate, inevitable feeling of homesickness that we have often heard or deciphered from the voices of loved ones who are abroad, and tried to ease through our happy talks. They are all put as it is, and there are even Hindi fonts used for authenticity (to give it an Indian touch). The Indian culture is well explained, and the author doesn’t wait till the end to do so, rather he does it immediately. I also felt that the emotions the couple go through when they find themselves separated by a border were well done. The ending was also very sad, yet something that fell in tune with the story’s flow.
There were a few things that I didn’t like. I think the first obviously is the premise. Though there is that state of unrest and the split does happen, there aren’t much details to that part. It is just put as unrest, and then the solution, just like the problem, also happens overnight. I, as a reader, would have liked to know more about what happened to cause that unrest, how were the people handling it, their state of mind and such, The second, though it gives a sense of authenticity, is the Hindi/Bengali fonts. I like that Hindi terms are used and their explanation given then and there, but if it was just in English, with a glossary at the start or beginning, the story would have gone more with flow I feel. The third was the train trip that Jai and his friends take. They reach the destination, and then suddenly we are back in Mumbai and their college cafeteria. It was confusing.
The conclusion to this book has a chapter titled Being an Indian, wherein the author speaks freely of his thoughts, and also asks us what our point of view is on what makes us Indians. I find this chapter very beautiful, and perhaps the most thought provoking part of the book. If you can procure a copy, I think it is definitely worth reading. Would I have been interested in it if I came across the book at Landmark or Crossword? I think I would give it a thought for sure, because the title, and the premise are worth pondering over.
Title: India Was One
Author: An Indian
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publishers: CreateSpace via Amazon
Price on Amazon: INR 175
(Aug 28th, 2013)