Happy Birthday! By Meghna Pant – Book Review
13 stories wade through various human relationships and the undercurrents they carry. The book Happy Birthday! talks about an everyday relationship we have in our lives, our parents and children, our friends and neighbors, our social connections and the ones we look forward to making. Most stories are urban. And deal with situations that are also more or less urban but may be emotions that are universal.
Meghna very subtly looks at what is happening underneath the veneer that looks all polished and shining in the lives that look absolutely normal. There is no melodrama in her stories. There are not many twists and turns. And there are not even too many dialogues on the surface. However, beneath the surface, there are waves of thoughts and emotions that probably do not even want to come out. But the characters have to live with them. Elderly people dealing with the changes that they see through their children is a theme across a few stories. As is changing relationships with time.
I am actually impressed that at a very young age, Meghna is able to see the points of views of elderly. Be it their need for companionship. Their yearning for their younger days or their accepting of the fact that the times now belong to their children and not them.
In many stories, it is just a small scene from someone’s life like attending a party or taking your kid to another kid’s house for playing. And meeting another parent and sometimes a daughter visiting her father. But what happens inside protagonist’s heart and mind while they adhere to all social norms. And how their whole life comes together in those moments has been excellently narrated by the author. In other stories, she talks about strange relationships when we let the other person use us just because you want their company. And sometimes we discover what we have believed in so far had been a lie.
There are stories about our biases that we think are legitimate until someone throws light on them. There are stories where the life of protagonist is a result of a choice that he or someone else made for him. And how the choice alienated him from the choice makers. And how they would never reconcile and only meet in death.
Her story on Sati in Rajasthan is the only one I could not comprehend and relate to. And it also stands out from the rest of the stories that are more about understandable relationships. And do not go into the realm of supernatural and beyond the obvious. Even her last story that has many strokes of destiny playing together comes together quite comprehensively in the end. Though I would have liked the narration to begin from the accident, the central hub holding all the threads together.
Beautifully narrated sensitive stories that are bound to find some resonance in your own lives. And may be, help you understand some relationships around you.
Read Happy Birthday!.