It is a challenging task to review a book when you know it is autobiographical. And deals with the story of the storyteller. Sepia Leaves is a bold attempt by Amandeep to bare his soul to the world, a rare feat. It is not easy to talk about your not so normal childhood, family and all that comes with it. It is not easy to talk about one’s own parents and extended family. And it is not easy to share your emotions as an observer. It is an immensely intense personal memoir, almost cathartic, a therapeutic need of the author to say the story. So kudos to the author for doing that…
The story takes you through the journey of the author from the times he was a small child. And since the time he can remember things to the time when he loses his father who in a way is his hero and the real protagonist of the story. He talks about his schizophrenic mother and how he and his father dealt with her. And the situations that arose out of her erratic and unpredictable behavior. How their life revolved around her moods and antics? How someday the Sun would suddenly shine on them and while the other days they would just be waiting for the rain to stop.
Eventually, it is a story of a child’s persistent hope that one day he and his parents would happily live as a family and share their joys and sorrows like other families. He does manage to do that. Maybe not to the extent he wanted to, but they do end up living as a family.
His father’s character is something you would empathize with. While you admire him for his commitment to a woman he married, for a child that he brought to this earth and what he considers a family. His willingness to give up his career, his acceptance of bad behavior of his wife in public and humiliation at the hands of her family is something not many men can do. He is not even proud or boastful of what he does. He accepts whatever life has given him. And considers it as his Sanjog (Fate/destiny). And works towards doing whatever best he can do. Eventually, he finds some solace in pursuing some of his interests like listening to ghazals.
I would have wanted more details of the story. It seems the author discovered the reason for his mother’s condition and his father’s amazing commitment. But he knowingly or unknowingly did not share it. There are a lot of situations where the scene suddenly changes. How it changed is not explained. Like when they did go out as a family, how did they talk it out to his mother and what motivated her to go. What is the emotion that kept the child bound to his parents even when he lived away from them in a hostel? Why did he yearn to come back to his home in Rourkela?
I would have wanted him to talk more specifics of the city. And how the new city also made him distant from his extended family. How the neighbors and father’s colleagues made a difference to his life or acted as the extended family. Though he does mention one of his Aaya and a Newspaperwallah who meant a lot to him, provided care when no one else did and who become a part of life and his mental family.
The events in the history have been used to depict the timeline. But sometimes the author gets frayed away by these events, which otherwise have no relevance to the story. Editing of the books leaves a lot to be desired. There are sentences which are dropped midway, there are popular poems that have been quoted wrongly. The language gets mixed up here and there and so does the chronology. The chapters in Italics are initially used for the present, but suddenly somewhere in between, they mingle with the past. Sepia Leaves book definitely deserved a better editing.
The mood of the book Sepia Leaves is Melancholy. Read it to get an insight into how a child relates to his parents. And what they mean to him, no matter what the world thinks of them. It is a good read for parents who let their children live away from them. While they may be thinking of acting in the best interest of the child, but they probably do not realize that more than anything else the child needs them. A child will never resent a parent for not giving them the best of things in this world. But a child would always resent a parent for keeping him away from them for whatever reason.
Sepia Leaves is an insightful read…
Buy this book – Sepia Leaves by Amandeep Sandhu at Amazon India.