Tell me a Story by Rupa Bajwa – Book Review
Tell me a Story is a simple and believable story of a young, studied till 9th standard girl. Who works in a beauty parlor in Amritsar. And whom circumstances take to Delhi. Do things really change for her?
The author of Tell me a Story brilliantly captures the claustrophobic hand to mouth living of lower middle-class family in her own hometown Amritsar. Though she does not talk much about the city. And it could have been any Tier II or Tier III city around the country. She is able to paint the unpainted house. And each of the characters living in it very vividly with their lives lost in earning. And managing within what they earn.
The scarcity of money leads to the souring of relationships; to the extent, it drives people to death. It captures the environment at a small beauty parlor also very well. The girls who are there but no one notices them. An owner who has to run the parlor as business and also manage the girls as employees. The pushes and pulls between girls, the tantrums of the customers who come there to get pampered and the wedding seasons when everyone lines up at the parlor.
Rani the young girl, works in a beauty parlor. Her world is limited to 4 members of her family and few colleagues in the parlor. And one friend in the neighborhood. At home, it is her sister-in-law who takes the decisions and at parlor the owner of the parlor. Rani continues to live life on a day to day basis with no long term plans in her head, spending some time watching TV and reading Filmfare. Shahrukh Khan plays a very important role in her life. She sings his songs all the time. Watches all his movies no matter how many times they are replayed on TV. And collects his pictures to create an album out of it. Every time she is lost, she finds solace in him till the time she is so dejected that even he seems distant and aloof.
The character of the patriarch of the family is so typical that I could imagine an old man lost in himself. Living with his books and his random walks. And trying hard not to be a burden or an obstacle in anyone’s life. A man that belonged to a generation that accepted what life gave them. And never fought to get everything around them. The sister-in-law is a typical girl who comes to the house starry eyed. But the life makes her bitter as she struggles to manage the resources of the family, to keep up with the demands of the society. And is always concerned about what would others say about the family condition. The kid is someone who ends up being a source of solace for everyone. And it is his company and his antics that comfort anyone.
In Delhi, the outburst of Rani when she finds that the amount of money that became a reason for her father’s death is same as a city dweller spends on a small gathering of friends. She meets an author, whom she finally connects with. But it is the parlor that keeps calling her. The chaos there is what she wants to return to and that is where she ends up after a while, in Delhi on her own.
It is her journey from a small town to a big city, from being just a member of her family to being on her own, from being someone’s daughter and someone’s sister to being only her. The author mentions her gift for storytelling, but she left some gaps in this aspect of the character. I think that line could have been developed a little further, but I think the author took a realistic approach where an ordinary talent is usually lost for want of understanding his or her own place in the world.
Read Tell me a Story to read the story of girls like Rani, or the girl in your neighborhood parlor, a girl whom you meet but may not know.