Sunday, Jul 14, 2024 | Last Update : 12:16 AM IST

  Books   30 Mar 2024  Book Review | Nature the teacher in land of renunciation

Book Review | Nature the teacher in land of renunciation

THE ASIAN AGE. | MALATI MATHUR
Published : Mar 30, 2024, 11:05 pm IST
Updated : Mar 30, 2024, 11:05 pm IST

The book is many-layered as it moves between the past and the present. Memory and its sister recollection imbue the lives of the characters.

Cover photo of 'Never Never Land' by Namita Gokhale. (Image by arrangement)
 Cover photo of 'Never Never Land' by Namita Gokhale. (Image by arrangement)

The slim book, ideal for a wet weekend with a hot cup of masala chai, snuggled up in a daybed at the bay window overlooking an overgrown garden awash in the rain, lives up to the promise of its title. It explores the tenuous bonds of memory, relationships, the bitter-sweet days of youth and old age — life itself. The only permanent component — and even that can surprise us sometimes with the impermanence of some of its elements — is Nature. There are the mountains, the rains, the plants and trees each with their own life cycles that mimic — and do not mimic at the same time — the playing out of the lives of people and their inter-personal ties — connections which are a complex admixture of emotions that resonate all at once with love, hate, selfishness, jealousy, honesty, betrayal and all the myriad subterranean streams of consciousness
that flow through the human mind.

The book is many-layered as it moves between the past and the present. Memory and its sister — recollections of what perhaps may have happened, or even not happened at all — slave to Time and wishful thinking, and selective remembering — imbue the lives of the characters. There is the narrator, Iti, her benefactor Rosinka (a wispy shadow of Miss Havisham here), and her grandmother Lila-Lily who was once Rosinka’s maid but is now more of a friend as they wait out their days together in the dark twilight of their lives “surviving among the dead and the dying as on a battlefield”. Nina, the mystery girl whose antecedents are slowly unravelled and who, with a sense of entitlement makes off with priceless Roerich paintings and with whom karma catches up (if one were to believe in such things), adds a touch of piquancy to the narrative — as if any more was needed with the regal and domineering Rosinka around!

The mountains and its people, the landscapes and the weather are powerfully described, with a sure touch that can make a person native to the hills but now exiled to the hot, dusty plains yearn with longing. Also a lesson on how it is possible to survive — and be happy or at least content to some degree — without being digitally connected all the time!

It is remarkable how in the space of a few pages, the author has delved into and analysed the way in which relationships can flourish, wilt and be revived once more. Our senses are so acutely tuned into our emotions that a whiff of a scent can turn on or off a particular feeling. And, even after a long, hard winter, the human spirit, eternally optimistic, can look ahead and see the flowers that have not yet bloomed, the streams that have not yet started flowing from the melting snows, and taste in the imagination, the fruits that will soon make their appearance across the hills.

The reviewer, Malati Mathur, was director, School of Humanities, and director, School of Foreign Languages, IGNOU, New Delhi. She is an bookaward-winning translator.

Never Never Land
By Namita Gokhale
Speaking Tiger
pp. 170; Rs 499

Tags: book review, human emotion, family relationships