Delayed Monsoon (2011)
Author: Chitralekha Paul
Publisher: Cedar Books
Abhilasha, the mother of a grown up girl, felt the transformation of a barren landscape of her life into a thriving oasis when she finally meets the love (Arvind) she had longed for, though in the most unusual of circumstances and in the most unusual of places - the internet. Now she is caught up in a dilemma whether to listen to her mind or to follow the beats of her heart. Going through an emotional roller coaster, she finally reached a stage where her passion turned into compassion, where all other conflicts appear trivial. In this scenario, none of her loved ones was left behind. A strong conviction bonded and inspired everyone to undertake life's journey where the rough edges were smoothened by the healing touch of love.
The book follows a straight narrative from Abhilasha's childhood as she unravels the strings of her heart, gets in and out of the denial mode of romance and figures out whom she actually loves and what exactly she wants in life. The whole falling-in-love process between Abhilasha and Arvind is imaginative, grimly and complicated, all at the same time. It has several tender moments to nurture and worth savouring. The narrative is ultra-descriptive and author has an eye for detail. But haven't we heard, too much of anything is always bad.
My problem with 'Delayed monsoon' is that it's about 50 pages too long and its too dry to be classified as a fiction novel. There are long monologues (sometimes over 1-1.5 pages) and hardly any conversations happening. I can think of at least two sub plots which could have been easily eliminated - One, a dream sequence in which Abhilasha contemplates the vicissitudes of married life with Shohuvik (her first love in college) and second, a back story of Kaveri who has killed her own father after many torturous incidents of domestic violence. The first one don't add much to the main storyline as it is not the real reason why she feels emotional emptiness in her marriage and second one don't delve sufficiently into the emotional metamorphosis which may occur in the Abhilasha's character because of her meeting with Kaveri. It just appears that the author was bursting with a hundred stories and decided to tell them all at once in one book. As a result, the book turns out to be pages from the diary of an individual rather than any coherent screenplay.
I also thought that each chapter title gave away too much information, they almost summaries the chapter which is a cardinal sin to do in a fiction book. for e.g: A chapter is titled as - Instead of sailing together, they started drifting apart. Now, titles like these which are present all through the book simply kills the excitement because you already know which way the narrative is going to take you and you are just waiting to see how it unfolds.
I also felt a little undone by Nikhil's character, who is partially blamed to be responsible for the monotonous marriage with Abhilasha... but why exactly none of them are ready to work on their marriage is never fully comprehended. There is a nice twist at the end of the book which makes for an almost philosophical albeit partially practical situation. It ticks off a thought process inside you about how exactly we as individuals don't have to necessarily choose between right and wrong, but sometimes both of it at the same time.
I am going with 2/5 for Chitralekha's first book, 'Delayed monsoon'. It's well intended and neatly packaged, but at the same time it is long, indulgent and exhausting. If you are patient, and willing to work with such shortcomings, there is an inherent sincerity waiting to be explored. It's a modest book in terms of its approach, built up and sensibilities, and i mean it in the best form of the word.