Author: Amrita Mahale
Irawati Kamat, and Kartik Kini are childhood best friends who meet again, after a gap of many years when they had stopped talking as Kartik went abroad to study, in the terrace of Asha Nivas to discuss an issue that is of the deepest concern to its inhabitants: the fate of this establishment and the possibility of a deal for a new flat from the owner and the builder. Ira is a journalist on the civic beat, and her job profile entails that she unearths moving stories of deep corruption, and whips up headlines that would bring out the satisfaction in people for re-affirming their own views on the corrupt nature of the BMC, conveniently shoving away the knowledge that corruption happens only when corruption is allowed by people in general. Kartik works in a corporate job with a big MNC, and is the pictured the perfect boy leading the perfect life his parents could ever hope for. What happens when the Kamats and the Kinis decide that the closeness and friendship of their children that existed several years ago could be extended as a marriage proposal in the present, when the two of them also have lives, past, and limitless dreams of their own, is what makes up the crux of this book.
The best part of this story is the description of Mumbai, and the very familiar set-up that we have even today all over India. The story opens in the locality of 1997 Matunga, when Ira is 28, but goes back to her childhood environment, and the descriptions of erstwhile Bombay. The whole charm of the book was in how relatable many things were in relation to set-up or environment that we grow up in, without the author going overboard and making it sound artificial.
Mahale paints a lucid, luminous picture of the 90s Bombay that genuinely brings the setting in front of your eyes. By the end of the first part of the book, I had the whole picture of Asha Nivas, and the street covered in old, green trees branching out benevolent shade, the temple bells ringing in regular intervals, and the walk down the street to the fast food serving dosas of all possible varieties. The beauty of Matunga and its residents have been captured with such beautiful and graceful narration. I loved it.
As for the main storyline: I am not at all a fan of romance. The story takes its time to introduce all the characters living in Asha Nivas, and also the two main characters in great detail. So, for the whole of the first part of the book- it didn't really reveal where the story was going. And, then the second and third parts reveal a lot of the romantic story it deals with in a steady pace. Since, I am not a great fan of this genre in general, I don't think I enjoyed the core story very much. It was good writing, but the genre just fails to interest me completely when it comes to novels.
The book is much more than just about a love story. It has vivid and enthralling narrative on the post-liberalization era of Mumbai- and it wraps you in what seems like a visual treat when you read the descriptions of the author! But, it did not do anything to change my view on this genre. In fact, it reaffirmed my reasons for why I have consistently never read much from this genre.
Overall, the book is a good read. But, a fair warning to those who do not enjoy this genre: it is likely that you may not enjoy every part of the novel.