This debut novel by Manjul Bajaj for me comes with a wave of fresh air, wrapped in simplicity and is rustic in character. It is a love story at one level where a boy and a girl meet and fall in love and have to face the struggles of their social context. At another level it is a story of a girl brought up in a safe and secure environment even in the absence of her parents amidst the people who are her own blood. It is a story of how she grows up when she comes in touch with someone who is an outsider and how she deals with the dilemmas that this new dimension in her life brings.

We, as people go through various dilemmas at lot of stages in our lives. The first ones probably appear as we grow out of our childhood and step into an adult life. Those dilemmas seem bigger as they are the first ones we face. Since the first dilemmas are at the early age, the decisions may have a life long impact, and hence a lot is at stake. The protagonists in this story also face these dilemmas and author has captured the thought processes of both of them very well both at a social as well as at an emotional level. The difference in the background of the two protagonists dictates how they deal with the life situations and how they are driven by what they value the most, be it family honor or a resolve to become something to prove oneself to the family. The person rooted in family chooses to guard the family honor while the one trying to prove one self chooses whatever means as long as he gets the ends he wants.

It is a simple story, based in a small village in rural Haryana with its name Kala Sand woven into an interesting tale. In time it is based 100 years back when the lives used to be simple, there were not many things to distract you or divide your energies into. A story where the community and family honor are more important than people sometimes, a time when the society was going through the first round of fundamental change, a space where emotions could play around.

What I liked the most about this book, besides the simple story is its flowing language, which has certain rhythm to it. The poetic touch that the author brings is something that is not so common in current day writing. Most of the English writing today tends to be very colloquial, with multiple languages thrown in just the way they are spoken. You would enjoy reading the book for the language that is soft and swaying.

Some local words have been used as such in the book, along with a few contemporary phrases here and there like Hat-ke. I enjoyed reading the book with those words as I understand those words very well and I know that there is no translation for those words that would convey the exact meaning, but for readers who do not understand the language, it may come as a break in the flow of the book. Words could have been explained as footnotes or elsewhere.

A simple yet subtle read…

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