Recently I have read a very lengthy and much talked book #IAm16ICanRape
by Kirtida Gautam which takes on a very important aspect of our judicial system and more crucially psychology of rape.
Now as the subject is really hard-hitting and the book is 630 pgs long, I was excited to read this one hoping to find a true magnum opus on the current position of woman in India. In fact, I have finished this book quite a few days ago, but I was doubtful about my opinion on the same. So after much thought I am presenting my true opinion about this book.
Firstly, this book is an honest attempt. But in midway through the book, I have almost decided to give it a 2-star and stop reading further. There are reasons for that which I will point out shortly. Basically the book gained 1 more star for Chapter 10.1, 6.4 and few more chapters on Aarush, our protagonist.
Too Many Characters:
In my opinion, this book would be better if it had been presented as a non-fiction book. The fact that, with almost 15 characters and 630+ pages; if the story and narration are not gripping enough, the book will bore the reader.
This book has lot of characters and the author has tried to give equal space for each one of them. Whereas, many characters are redundant and removing them would have made this book far more compact and gripping.
Next are narration, language and style. The style is in simple prose for which I have no problem but the presentation is not lively at all. For example consider the following excerpt:
“Around 12:15 a.m., I get a call from the Santosh Hospital. Dad collapsed in the parking area at RK-JEE. How and when did that happen? We rush to the hospital and find out that Dad was backing his car from his parking space when suddenly, he fell on the wheel and fainted. The watchman, Makkhan Singh, rushed to the spot and drove him to hospital.”
As each chapter is devoted to one character only it’s really irritating when in every line the character says “I am doing this, I am doing that.”
Like this one:
(From a chapter on Rudransh)
“I am so excited with this thought that I cannot sleep. I wake up at least five times during the night to check the time. Every night when I go to bed, I get the feeling that it is morning in five minutes; but tonight, the time simply does not pass. By the time the alarm clock rings at 5:30 a.m., I am already up. I go for my morning walk.”
(From a Chapter on Meghana)
“I come home. My cook, Sarojini, has come. I ask her to pack three different Tupperware tiffin boxes. I specify in my instructions to use Tupperware and not regular plastic boxes. The first tiffin is my lunchbox, the second my 4 p.m. snack, and the last my 6 p.m. salad.
I drive to my office. The intern, Shivani, is not in the office. I don’t appreciate it when people are late when they are on an internship. I criticize Shivani in front of Rajkumar, who is my best friend and colleague.”
It’s just telling, not showing. Even you can’t differentiate the tone of each character; all are almost same.
Also, most of the narration is based on dialogues and I am not happy to see the author considering her readers so dumb. A tone, or mockery, or sarcasm should reflect in the dialogue itself. We don’t need a comment explaining meaning of the dialogue each time.
“Hi Dad, I didn’t notice you. When did you come? What is the time? 1:30?” she asks.
“No, it is 9:30,” I answer.
“How come RK-Ji is back so early?”
“Has your MIL’s spirit entered in your body by any chance? Why so much sarcasm? At the end of the day, you are a woman and you can’t change that, right?” I am her father-figure, she should not verbally brawl with me.
But at the end few chapters pay off well as mentioned earlier. Very deep insights are presented at very crucial points that question our beliefs. Like this one:
“There are people who believe in the basic goodness of human nature. I believe in the basic evil of human nature.
I am a memory collector. I like to collect memories of high and intensely emotional moments. Any idea why people watch movies or read fiction and stuff? Homo sapiens crave emotional experiences. They need intense emotional experiences, but the fact of human life is that they don’t get those experiences in their real lives. They bottle up emotions, then they go out and watch or read something and their emotions come out, a process called catharsis. The lower the intelligence of a system; the more prone she/he will be to enjoy vicarious emotions and believe in the make-believe. That is how the film and TV industry survives. By stupidiots, with stupidiots, for stupidiots!”
“When Mom slapped me, the absolute first thought that came into my head was, ‘Does she know?’ Then I quickly put all the pieces of the puzzle together. If she knew, she would not have been the only person to know. Bob would have known too! But Bob just hugged me and welcomed me back home. He didn’t know a thing, which implied Mom didn’t know anything either. She slapped me only because she felt like slapping me. Good! That is good! She thinks I was angry with her. I was not angry, I played angry, but in reality, I was relieved!”
I adore this kind of mind-play. The division of chapters, though very unconventional and confusing, is basically a timeline of the events that take place in the book. A clever way of chapter division.
Nearing at end of this review I can say that, it has good insights, an average plot, an average narration and too many characters (so many that you may forget their names). So it leaves me dangling in between whether I like this book or not. Hence, giving it three stars.