By Ruchi Pradhan Datta
Aeons ago, when I had just stepped into journalism, one of my earliest editors in Lucknow shared with me the following pearls of wisdom. He said, ‘Ruchi, write to be understood and not to impress.’ A mantra that I follow to this day! And on reading Stormy Hazarika’s maiden novel, ‘A River on the Wall’, those words came ringing right back.
The book is an honest portrayal of love and hate, trust and betrayal, complex emotions that abound around us in the most unexpected of instances. It’s an unpretentious narration of the myriad shades of a common man’s life, (here Professor Ryeed Lahan) that Stormy expects the reader to understand without being judgmental. The reader is nudged to look around and observe to discover the most unusual of stories lurking around the lives of the plainest of people. A regular professor looking for that elusive river on the wall!
The metaphor of the river can be best defined by the character, Suchitra’s explanation, ‘….It’s… intangible… something out of reach. An impossibility. Like, say, a river on a wall.’
That Stormy is rooted in literature is evident from the references she drops along the way, of Saki, Walt Whitman and other literary legends, which lend themselves absolutely naturally to the fabric of the tale.
Moreover, though the story pans across various regions of India, residents of the Doon Valley would positively identify with the neighbourhood references, as the author is based in the hills of Mussoorie.
Yet another strength of the book is the vivid etching of the characters, which is so pellucid that one can actually visualise them as also relate with them.
The narrative is seamless and easy to stay glued to. And at 246 pages, the conveniently sized paperback, published by Loksley Hall Publishing, is a must read, especially for die hard romantics.
To summarise in a word, the novel is ‘unputdownable’.