Looking for Love?

January 18, 2013

Notes on Namita Gokhale's 'The Habit of Love'

Author : Namita Gokhale

Publisher : Penguin India

Rating : 3.5/5

A short story is supposed to snap shut at the end with a sort of satisfactory click, but it would be difficult to distort this tale to fit an artistic requirement. My quarrel with the short story is precisely that it imposes a false order and symmetry on events, forcing impressionable young minds to anticipate a similar state from the inchoate mess that is life.

The above lines from Omen 2, one of the stories in the book encapsulates the eccentric and at times, macabre humour dripping from the writing. But all stories (narrated in the first person) manage to convey the habit of love - which is empty and full of hope at the same time.

The Habit of Love by Namita Gokhale is a collection of thirteen stories that reflect and internalize the lives of women. There are essentially two sorts of stories: contemporary, urban narratives and a re-telling of stories from the epics employing a female, subaltern point of view. But they all share the whimsical and quirky humour with which they speak of themselves and their lives.

Most of these women are not extra-ordinary but straight out of your regular lives but at the same time, they are broken - either emotionally or physically or both. They are happy and angry at small things in life and allows the readers to go through their experiences, decisions and multitude of expressions in as little words as possible.

From an older widow woman’s infatuation with a younger man to the messenger swan narrating a story of doomed lovers, Nala and Damayanti, the stories capture the essence without becoming preachy or superficial. My favourite is however, Omens 1 is about Vatsala Vidyarthi, a lonely 'literary lady' who works in an advertising agency. Vidyarthi suspects she has been robbed by her one-night stand during an official junket to Rishikesh and returns determined to bury the hurtful incident; yet it leads her to reassess the nature of faith and trust.

If reading subtle short stories is your forte, then this one is for you. Each of the story will leave you touched, yet wanting more out of it. Trust me, Not a bad feeling after reading a book!

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