When I missed Mrs Funnybones’ eponymous novel, I didn’t had an iota of sense that I had missed a piece from the best-selling corner. Witnessing the same nationwide popularity of her second produce, I dared not to miss the legendary of Laxmi Prasad.
To my utter surprise, however, the legendary of Lakshmi Prasad glossed only for one chapter. That reveals a disappointing news for novel-lovers but electrifying news for short-stories-admirers that this book is a collection of four short stories. Here, you will not only meet with the legendary Laxmi Prasad but also with desolated mettlesome Noni Appa, confused daredevil Elisa Thomas, and the headstrong Bablu Kewat.
Laxmi Prasad was one of the rarest breeds in the village who was blessed with an acumen to see an opportunity even in the banality. Seeing the plight of the village girls – whose purpose of existence was to get married, transport the relics from her parents to in-laws, get beaten and return back to parents – Lakshmi turned into a “girl with a mission”. A mission to tide those girls over their sinking lives. Her teeming brain gave birth to such an idea which brought the prosperity to the girls and fame to the girl. Thereafter, successive generations devoted themselves in Lakshmi’s apotheosis although oblivious to the fact that it was in reverence to a gangly-girl-Lakshmi not the universal-God-Lakshmi.
Noni Appa, an aka name for ‘Noureen’, a secluded infirm sexagenarian relied on hearing aids for sound fitness and on yoga for health fitness. On account of relationships, she was survived by only two – her daughter Mallika residing oceans apart and her sister Bini couple of miles apart. Her aim in life was to keep maintaining her non-distorted image in society no matter what. With passing days of loneliness, Noni realised at a point that she had developed an emotional inclination towards her yoga teacher (Anandji they called him) even at this age. “Even at this age” – the conception that is incited and dissected thoroughly in this story.
Anandiji, desperate to take a refuse in Noni’s reposeful company and denounce his choleric wife from decades old cramful marriage, used all his maturity to unravel his heart – “At our age I can’t say that my heart flutters when I am near you, but it hums contentedly, and I want to spend the time I have left listening to that sound”.
Anandji’s confession had put Noni on the spot: “Why do people have to define relationships, underline each word till the paper gives way beneath…”
For Noni, the meaning of the loaded words such as love and relationship didn’t carry the same perspective as it did decades ago. Now, these meanings signified differently and way beyond the conventional desires. It was rather a ‘desire of companionship’. A desire of NOT coming home full of deafening silence and horrendous emptiness; a desire of having someone beside her deathbed or at least the time when she was in hospital fighting with the death; a desire of knowing the life which still existed even after her husband and child gone; a desire of crossing the boundary of the most-decorous-lady status and living the life once again.
“She had to loosen these strings that tied her down because time was untying the knots with such great speed at the other end and pulling her lower and lower to the ground each day, till soon she would be buried underneath.”
Elisa Thomas, a young charming abundant believer of weather forecasts, was trapped in a two-sided game with her fate in terms of relationships. They kept betraying each other time to time. Her marriages and relationships competed with the changing weathers. Scouting for a perfect weather and a perfect life partner, she didn’t know what to expect and whom to expect in life. Relationship was not showing a sign of compassion even after her turning to Ayesha from Elisa. Wedding, which had become nothing more than a ceremony, was either a self-will or an imputation by parents who believed in only mantra “…after all, a man is a man is a man.” Every other partner of Elisa turned up being suicidal crediting to her indifferent attitude. Her failures in relationship was in turn adding up to her wisdom: “Things have a way of turning up when they want to be found, though they may not always be the things they actually want to find.”
There came a time when she left everything including her parents’ patriarchy and her postal address. She wasn’t scared of being lonely “It will be far less lonely than sharing a name and a bed with yet another stranger.” Well, was that the only fate of Elisa or did luck store some more surprises for her? Read this further when the weather permits.
Bablu Kewat from Madhya Pradesh, a literary metamorphosis of Shri Arunachalam Muruganantham (famously known as the Padman or Napkin Man of India), had been living his life peacefully with his family and acrimoniously with his neighbours. His different-than-normal behaviour was always received as weirdness and pandemic. His low income-level and negligible English-proficiency were not able to touch the serenity of his life until the day when he witnessed his wife’s insanitary condition during mensuration. He decided to make affordable sanitary napkins which could equate the standard of over-the-counter overly priced napkins.
His passion grew intense day by day. Like every other volition, his too demanded sacrifices which costed him a great deal of sufferings when his life-giver and life-partner both abandoned him. Despite these, he didn’t leave any stone unturned to bring his dream into reality. And soon, the world started acknowledging the efforts of the Padman.
The universal saying – everyone bows down to the rising sun – was realised when his own people as well as the community strangers started claiming their rights on his life. His mother, his wife, and the society were now his newly found supporters.
An extraordinary journey illustrated in extraordinary way. This story deserves to hold the title of the book, in my view, and must be retold in every other possible form.
Deep down, one shouldn’t be presumptuous to declare this book a piece of literature, which is fine because not every bit of writing needs to emulate the Shakespearean style. In fact, its sheer lucidity and spontaneity in terms of language and narration are the qualities that could have elevated it to the status of “best-sellers”. This is the book which could act as a perfect wafer for your hot coffee and a marvellous piece of filler to your commute time. What do we call it nowadays? Aah – a perfect “Metro read”!!
Shweta Kumari Sharma
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