Book Review: A Hundred Lives For You
Abhisar Sharma has written two thrillers before this book, which I haven’t read. This one, however, is all about people and relationships, and it takes montages from three decades of Abhimanyu’s life. A media man with a penchant for reporting, Abhisar seems to have gotten down to writing a deeply personal book, or so it seems as you flip the pages.
A Hundred Lives For You – a title which seems so much more at home in Hindi – Sau Zindigiyaan Tumhare Liye – is deftly told. The first part of the book is about Abhimanyu’s relationship with the world around him, while the second is primarily focused on his relationship with Simran, his daughter. It is in the second part that his writing becomes pointed and crispier, touching raw exposed emotions from a battered past and a troubled childhood, and creating a poignant tale of redemption. In the first part, however, he meanders. The high point of the first part, though, is the story written by Abhimanyu for his school’s story competition. Set in the pre-independence era of protests and prabhat-pheris, the story of Rupali sets you firmly in Abhimanyu’s zone almost instantaneously. You start expecting unexpected emotions in expected settings. How that short story will come back to complete itself much later in Abhi’s life is something you wait for.
The book does take several juvenile turns every now and then – especially the incident with Sweta (at school and then, much later in life). It takes the flimsiness of falling in love to an unreal level, and it hurts more so because the book tries so hard (and delivers quite often) to keep the interpersonal relationships real. Even the incident at school about Simran’s parents, while the handling thereof at Abhimanyu’s end is quite delicate, just seems way too simplified otherwise. On the other end, his relationship with Jagtar, his childhood friend, is precisely handled – right from the bonds that friends share to the cracks that never mend.
Abhisar’s book appreciates Abhimanyu for what he is – a flawed and anchorless man coming to terms with the world around him, trying to find a shore for himself. The book does not have heroes. The book’s premise is the bonds between people, and to that extent the book delivers. And there are many a moments where your heart reaches out to the characters – be it the 1984 riots and the carnage then, or Abhimanyu’s a hundred lies for you Simran.. a hundred lives for you.
The book could have been a little well proof-read, with occasional mistakes creeping in, and a touch better edited, especially in the first half. Otherwise, the book makes for a very good read, and speaks volumes about how mainstream Indian English Fiction is improving with every passing day.
Simple story, great emotions, good use of the country’s timeline, weak first half, good narrative, few editorial misses, and a very strong father-daughter relationship in the second half of the book. Go for it.
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