The Many Conditions of Love by Farahad Zama
Contemporary Indian writers, who are ‘well educated’, have global exposure and a reasonable command over the language are emerging as one breed of writers or rather I should say professional writers. They know what ingredients to put in their writing to appeal to their readers. They usually keep their writing very light, very simple and something that most people can relate to even when the base setting may be different. The intensity is missing probably because that is how today’s lifestyle is for this stratum of society. The observations are usually good and diverse indicating a keen mind.There are 3-4 parallel stories in the novel, with equal number of loosely held protagonists. There is a Muslim revolutionary straight out of an Amol Palekar film who falls in love with a Hindu journalist, after working on a protest together. There is a recently married girl who has come from a poor family into a rich one and hence faces humiliation from other women in her new family, looks straight out of Ekta Kapoor serials. There is a young widow who wants to live life fully and comes from a village to a city to work in a call centre, somewhere showing the change that women in this country are going through by working towards gaining and maintaining their independence. There is an old farmer in a remote village, who has a tough life, that is dependent on rains year after year. Then there are few characters in the supporting caste.
There is no story per se in the book, it is more like a diary of these 3-4 people as the life happens to them over a period of time. It starts at a point in time and it ends at another, with no defining events opening or closing the story. In fact there are no big twists and turns. The characters are ordinary and have no peculiarities that make them interesting or stand out in the narration.
It looks like the author has picked up unrelated people and stories and tried to loosely hold them together and create a story. I could not gather if there is a message in the book, is there something that the story is trying to say, an issue that is being highlighted, a thought that author wants to share or an emotion that must be expressed. It is just a documentation of lives of a few people as it happens on an everyday basis. The agonies that you go through everyday, the rituals that you do mechanically, the cautions that you take while dealing with people around you, and all the things that make our day to day life is what is there in all the 300 pages of this book. It is about people you meet every day at the corner of your street, at your office and chit chat that you share with them.
There are many issues that are touched but never delved into. There is the farmer unrest, there is treatment of widows in society and then there is a cross faith love story. All the issues are sensitive and can be dealt with intensity and depth, but author takes them more as a matter of fact. It is more like a slice of a larger story.
Novel is based in Vizag, a city that is not too big and not too small. It is a coastal town on the east coast of India, with a laid back pace and it is a good documentation of the place. We need more stories based in towns and cities that are not so well known, that capture the social and cultural aspects of these places and also become the chronicle of their times. Probably when someone reads this book a few decades down the line, this will give them a picture of how people in and around Vizag lived at the turn of the century. As a contemporary reader I could not find much in the book.
After reading the book I found out that it is a sequel of his earlier book “Marriage bureau for the rich people”. Looks like, this sequel has few more sequels lined up as the story abruptly ends. If the author plans to write a series, I think he can pick up one story or one issue to focus on in every book, so that someone who reads just one book also gets something concrete to read.
A quick and easy Sunday afternoon read.