Tera Mujhse Hai Pahle Ka Naata Koi.....
Be it an illusion, love is yet a necessity to live for.
Of all types of love, it is parental love that we take for granted the most. Parents are always there for us, is a feeling which gives us the greatest sense of security and support. Yet, how much do we invest to perfect our relationship with our parents? Not much. It is the sub-continental psyche which makes us complacent about the rapport we have with our parents. Isn’t it parents’ duty to love their children and fulfill their dreams? Who are they going to live for If not their children? Likewise, who are the children going to look after if not their parents?
If you do not endorse my views then ask all those who are deprived of parental love - how they crave for it and how we, who have it, do not make much about it. It is there(read parental love), is an assertion of the belief that no father or mother can turn away from his/her offspring. I remember Shyamli(name changed), a loner, who found it difficult to mingle with other girls in school. She would often be found roaming in the gardens all by herself in search of something unseen. It was rumored that she came from a broken family. In those days, a child out of a failed marriage was as much a social outcast as it is this day. Here, I speak of India as a whole with all its backwater regions, struggling-to-come-up villages, small towns and modest cities and not just the neo-modern metropolis.
Lakshmi Menon’s second novel “Cherished” is all about those deprived kids who are products of broken marriages – their yearnings, their anguish and their fervent prayers to see their parents together even if it is only for once in their life time.
The Plot: – Grishma and Praveen marry against the wishes of their respective families. It is an inter-state marriage. Grishma belongs to Kerala and Praveen belongs to Karnataka. Despite regional differences, their love flourishes.
A year later Jyothi is born. Grishma with infant Jyothi is with her parents. She longs for the day when her husband will come and take her and Jyothi home. However, Praveen is caught up with work and unable to make time to pay a visit to his wife and daughter. He plans to bring them back when Jyothi is a little older, since traveling from Kerala to Delhi(where he is based) with a new born baby may be risky. In the meanwhile, Praveen’s cousin Keerthana arrives in the city to appear for an exam.
Unable to find a suitable accommodation, Praveen asks Keerthana to put up with him for the time being. An impatient Grishma plans a surprise come-back. She returns home with Jyothi. However, grave misunderstanding follows when Grishma finds the house locked and women’s wear drying in the verandah.
In a short while, Praveen returns and tries to explain the truth to Grishma and his father-in-law who has also come all the way from Kerala with his daughter and granddaughter. But all in vain. Grishma is sure that Praveen has been deliberately delaying her homecoming because there is now someone else in his life. She feels betrayed and on an impulse decides to go back to her parents.
A frustrated Praveen shuts himself up in a room. By the time he comes to his senses Grishma is already gone. He rushes out to pacify her back but on the way his scooter is hit by another vehicle. Bleeding profusely, Praveen is admitted into the nearest hospital where it takes months for him to recuperate.
While he pines for his wife, an embarrassed Praveen cannot tell his parents or cousin what has transpired between him and Grishma. Finally, when Praveen is fit to travel to Kerala to meet Grishma and clarify his position, it is too late. Grishma, against her parent’s wishes, has decided not to go back with Praveen. She also refuses to divorce him. Grishma takes up a job in Bangalore to raise her child.
Years later, Jyothi, a young college student, putting up as a PG with a decent lady, Mrs. Rao, is in search of her biological father. She wants to know why he left her and whether he still remembers her. But Praveen seems to have just vanished from their lives. Jyothi detests her mother who only has bad words for her father. Grishma does not know that Jyothi is secretly looking for her father. It is with Mrs. Rao’s help that Jyothi is at last able to locate her father.
Their bonding is instant and Jyothi feels complete after a long, long time. But what will happen when Grishma comes to know that Jyothi and Praveen have united? Will Grishma be able to ever forgive Praveen and realize that her daughter not only needs motherly love but fatherly support too?
Lakshmi Menon, in a simple yet fluid narrative, tells us the story of a lonely child born out of a marriage that did not work – her psyche, her pathos and her dilemmas. In doing so, she does effectively point out the outcome of impulsive and rash decisions which can doom the happiest of unions.
It takes both hands to clap. While Grishma is stubborn and strong headed in her approach so is Praveen’s procrastinations responsible for their break-up, yet Lakshmi is never judgmental in her narration. While Grishma’s bitterness is understandable Praveen’s compassion towards his first love is touching. Sandwiched between the two is Jyothi who is lost, insecure, uncertain and disturbed.
Lakshmi portrays the dilemmas of all the three pivotal characters with a naturalness born out of experience and worldly wisdom. She understands the society well and how it functions. Pitted against a strife-filled cosmopolitan backdrop, Grishma, Praveen and Jyothi desperately look for footholds which will lend a little more stability to their topsy-turvy worlds. Surely, this is relatable India that we know and understand.
Yet, while living the pain that each character goes through in the novel, one wishes if only Grishma were not so foolhardy, Praveen not so casual, or one may say callous, or Jyothi a little more respectful towards her mother. After all, she did bring her up as a single parent which is not easy.
But here we are dealing with human beings who are a unique amalgam of strengths and weaknesses. And that is what Lakshmi tries to gently remind us. Humans are not infallible. They are prone to make mistakes. But that does not mean that they should be awarded life-long punishment for their momentary weaknesses or lapses. There are always alternate ways of solving even the most critical problems and resolving even the most crucial issues through timely communication, mutual discussions and consent.
Above all, Lakshmi underscores the importance of trust, understanding and care to maintain marital harmony. This is evident when Malini, Praveen’s second wife, encourages him to financially help Grishma and Jyothi saying that she has full confidence in her husband and knows he will do no wrong. Love in order to be complete has to have the accompaniment of faith. Otherwise it is merely a temporary passion.
For that matter isn’t it our duty to give a chance to our loved ones to put forth their view point or explanations? In this case, Grishma’s persistent refusal to listen to Praveen or read the long letters he sends to her before paying his last, futile visit to mollify her are instances of self-denial. By banishing Praveen from her life she actually deprives her own self of the happiness which she ideally deserves. But is she able to banish him from her thoughts? Is she able to let go the sense of betrayal? No! The result is that burning hatred and feeling of revenge which makes her poison her daughter’s mind against her father.
Hatred and revenge are great driving forces as long as they are channelized into constructive means. Otherwise they can be causes of downfall and death. Here again Lakshmi subtly and sensibly confronts the sensitive issue of a child’s upbringing who is either deprived of fatherly or motherly love. Is it right to instill negative views in her mind about a person who she has not met or known since childhood just because there is a rift between the parents? Is it not the right of the guardian to let the child make up his/her own mind about her estranged father/mother once he/she is old enough to take decisions?
Lakshmi, in her novel, deals with such complex and contemporary issues with care and caution. At the same time, she does not forget to point out the pitfalls which may end a union forever and lay stress on cherishing values which are keystones of healthy and humane living conditions. Marriages are not made in heaven they are institutionalized through continued and determined efforts, utmost devotion and careful nurture.
“Cherished” has a strong theme and flowing narration. However, a little more attention to editing is desirable. While the entire story centers round the protagonists, the peripheral characters(e.g. the grandparents, uncles and aunts) and their contribution to the development of the pivotal characters and their fates are somewhat overlooked. The novel has the seeds of an epic saga. The end is optimistic and leaves scope for a sequel.
Read “Cherished” to know more.