Rain- A Survivor’s Tale
by Sriram Subramanian
(A Critical Review)
The novel revolves around the life and times of a man who is in conflict with his past and his present. He challenges the forces of nature and long-standing conventions, loses badly, learns his lessons and starts over. As the subtitle suggests appropriately, the story is about a survivor, a person who goes through all the trials of fire and emerges purified. It touches upon a number of issues, starting with the problems of a northerner marrying a Marathi girl as the protagonist does. It beautifully captures the way a language can alter the status of a person. The protagonist despite his love of all things Maharashtrian is not able to express his fidelity and loyalty to the community due to the fact that he does not know the language. It expresses aptly how language barriers create family rifts. The book starts with the relationship dynamics in Jai’s family and highlights the entrenched blind faith in certain traditions and personalities like the great astrologer Pandit Borkar whose prediction sets the wheels of events turning and effectively begins the novel plot in earnest. What follows is a story of a man walking on a tightrope of his dreams and others’ expectations, trying desperately to establish himself, walking in his virtuous father’s footsteps and keeping everyone happy. An atheist, he tempts fate by openly declaring his intentions to thwart the great Borkar’s predictions of hard times in the near future and swears to build a bungalow for his wife, Sarika. He ignores her intuitive feelings when she tells him to pause and warns him repeatedly regarding opportunistic friends. But inebriated with the will to succeed at any cost and heady with the lucrative big business deal he lands up, Jai ignores Sarika’s misgivings.
What results is his complete collapse when not just his client breaks the deal, but he has to file for bankruptcy when his business partner and long-time friend turns into a venomous foe. All these difficult times are worsened by his father’s death leaving behind three thick diaries that take Jai on a soul-searching journey back to his past. His demons start resurfacing and skeletons begin crawling out of his past closet turning his mind around and creating a miasma of guilt around him, a whirlpool which he is not able to escape and eventually gets sucked into.
The adventures of Jai when his business crumbles and he takes to the streets takes the reader to the grimy underbelly of the city of Pune and unveils the tragic fates of those who make their living on the streets. It also exposes the political drama that goes behind the scenes of an election.
Various themes sprout up in the novel at different times, for instance, the Marathi pride and fierce sense of belonging towards their own community, the ambition of politicians, a mother’s blind love, misplaced anger, infidelity and so on. Jai’s father-in-law is the father figure in this book, the man who is able to view everything with an unbiased perspective and provides sane advice to anyone who needs it.
Jai’s past deals with a crucial social matter of how rumors can ruin a person’s life. The reception of a sibling by a child has been sensitively portrayed in the novel. In fact, Jai’s story of Sunny is the crux of the plot and a prime mover in his upbringing, his relations with his father and the major cause of his leaving his hometown. The author has carefully threaded this delicate issue into the book, taking into account honest, unbarred feelings and giving them voice in an effort to understand and learn the nuances of such a touchy matter.
The thing about the characters was that they were predictable. The good thing was that they could be easily identified with. A bit of unreality crept into the story at times, when the protagonist takes to the street and farm life easily, giving it a very movie-ish feel. But there is an element of unconventionality in the plot when Jai’s difficult decision with Ashok bears no fruit and he is relegated to unknown parts of the country because of his own decision never to meet Sarika. The reader is kept wanting for the two star-crossed lovers to meet but is tormented for quite sometime. The jewel on the crown is the worldview of the holy man who wanders into the village where Jai has settled and shakes him out of his torpor, giving him the peace of mind he had been seeking so long.
False friends, hypocritical relations, critical naysayers, hurt beloved, tormented protagonist- all the major elements of a potboiler combine in this book with the burning concerns of the age what with corruption, domination of females, plight of the slum-dwellers, the dirt of politics, and the state that the country is in to give it a contemporary fast-paced feel.
The novel moves through the political centres of the city of Pune to the smelly dilapidated hovels beneath the flyovers to tranquil farmlands seamlessly telling many tales in a natural voice of a common man who abides by the rules, is moderately ambitious, dogged by guilt due to his past and wants to transform his life.
Some incredible life lessons emerge suitably in the final chapter where Jai finally gets his salvation from the honeyed words of a great man, who in some beautiful and powerful lines, explains accurately what life is all about. It is beautiful to note the role of rain in this novel. At the outset of the novel, Jai prayed for the rains to be delayed as opposed to the majority of the population for whom rain was a blessing in disguise. As rotten luck would have it, it rained cats and dogs soon after and life took a severe downturn for him. However, the end of the novel shows how Jai reconciled with his lot, forgave himself, reconciled himself to the harsh realities of life and ultimately came to love the rains.
Here is the link to buy it online :)