Book Review: Mehr - A Love Story by Siddhartha Gigoo


Copyright (C) Privy Trifles


Genre: Fiction

Publishers: Rupa Publications

Price: Rs. 295/- (I got the book for review from the publisher)

Behind the Book

‘Thus, I begin, not at the beginning, but at the end when I had met her for the first time.’

Mehr, a Shia woman from Pakistan, falls in love with Firdaus, a youngster from Kashmir. Sundered by an unforgiving border, Mehr writes to her beloved, begging him to meet her. Firdaus relents, not knowing that the two of them are consumed by something far more dangerous than love and passion. They have caught the eye of Indian Intelligence, and stirred the suspicion of one particularly tenacious officer. A deadly pursuit ensues. The lines between betrayal and revenge, deception and loyalty, love and madness, dream and reality stand blurred.

In Mehr, award-winning author Siddhartha Gigoo plumbs the depths of obsession in its many forms: love, patriotism, religion. Equal parts tragic and heroic, the novel explodes the boundaries between people and countries, finding peace amid the chaos of war, and love in the shards of desolation.

About the Author

Siddhartha Gigoo was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. His first novel, The Garden of Solitude, was published in 2011. He has also produced and directed The Last Day, a short film. Goodbye, Mayfly is Siddhartha's latest film. His writings have appeared in various literary journals. He works for the Tatas and lives in New Delhi.

I first heard about the author when he won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Asia) in 2015 for his short story, The Umbrella Man. I remember being struck with the raw beauty of his writing. He has a way with words, the way he emotes through them was something that actually made me read his previous works. Though I am guilty of being largely absent from social media, I faintly remember a couple of his write ups on Kashmir, personal in nature which depicted his memories but even in those, his writing was something that stood out. I remember being moved beyond words at the end of that twitter thread, such was the power of his narrative.

Mehr, caught my heart from that hauntingly beautiful cover and ofcourse the first line of the blurb. My first reaction was ,"Just when I thought I was done with love stories, comes one when I just cannot say NO and that from an  author I have always admired." And there I had it in my hands. (The captioned image is my attempt to capture the beauty of both the cover and the book)

Coming to Mehr-A love Story , it is a profound narration of the extent a person can go in both love and hatred (or anger). It is an amalgamation of every thing that this country is currently grappling with - religious divide, politics, cross border tension, inter-religion love stories, honor killing, treachery and the revenge that almost everyone is seeking for multiple reasons.The underlying anger and tension is palpable in common man and that is scary at times for you don't know which form this anger can/will take.

The characters of Mehr and Firdaus are addictive, just like Siddhartha Gigoo's writing. By the time you reach the last page of the book, you don't want it to end. You want more out of these two, out of the book and from the story. Sample this poetic line the author uses to describe a female character.
"The mirage, the celestial raphsody and the dancing lights, owed her beauty to her birth."
This book doesn't tell a love story, it depicts a love story in every page. Written in his inimitable style, Siddhartha's characters are people whom you might have had the chance to know but refused because you were scared of their complexity. It is this complexity of their nature that makes them endearing by the end of Mehr.  Sample this line,

"I do not want this, Firdaus. I can't bear it anymore. Don't give up on me. Don't abandon me. I am falling apart."
The lucid writing, doesn't fail to bring out the depth of the emotions behind them. Layered with liberal doses from real life and sprinkled with fiction, the author has weaved a heartwarming tale of love and longing. In a way it has everything that could make it a proper Bollywood movie - action, romance, emotion, drama, revenge and ofcourse little bit of humor also. Yet there is something that makes this book different than every other love story. Some might say it is the treatment, some might say it is the writing while some like me might say it is Mehr and Firdaus who make it so different.

Neatly divided into four segments, the names of each chapter are alluring and inviting. As a reader the more I read this book the more I found something new to fall in love with starting with cover, blurb to characters and the narrative. I simply loved the letters, they were truly poignant, mesmerizing and evocative.
"Music suppresses everything - pain, memory, anger."
The story will make you question a lot of things including the Partition, religious divide and the so called destiny which decides to make people fall in love but not unite in that love. The questions will tug your heart but still reading it is deeply satisfying. Siddhartha Gigoo's Mehr is a reminder of what we need the most in the world today - love... endless love, nothing more, nothing less.

This is one book I will keep going back to, especially when my soul needs a heartening read which leaves me feeling contended. Strongly recommended to all romance lovers and to all believers in the magic of love!

Foodie Verdict

This book is like Vendakka Paal Curry Recipe (Kerala Style Okra-Coconut milk Curry)  - a dish that I happened to have only once in my life and still swear by the delectable flavors it consists of. 

Source: Erivum Puliyum