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Book Review: ‘Your Truth, My Truth: Stories of New Age Relationships’ By Runa Mukherjee Parikh

Runa Mukherjee Parikh's ebook, 'Your Truth, My Truth' offers coming of age short stories which are bound to move you.

Runa Mukherjee Parikh’s ebook, ‘Your Truth, My Truth’ offers coming of age short stories which are bound to move you.

Runa Mukherjee Parikh’s, ‘Your Truth, My Truth: Stories of New Age Relationships’ is a collection of short stories that encompasses the intricacies of modern-day relationships. Set in metropolises, the urban texture of the characters and their approach to life is sheer fun to read. The anthology comprises of six short stories and each narrative is markedly distinct in style and theme and has the ability to stand on its own merit which will definitely appeal to the diverse and varied interests of the modern readers. Every story unfurls a world of familiar urban characters and dives into the human psyche in order to offer slice of life which is quintessentially Indian.

Runa Mukherjee Parikh is an Indian journalist and has reported extensively on education, women, society, culture, heritage, art and parenting. She has worked with leading national dailies like ‘The Times of India’ and ‘India Today’ among several others. This is her first collection of short stories.

The anthology explores various modern issues like: the note-ban and its impact on relationships; the nuances of a modern-urban relationships; the nexus between mental health, sanity and its influence on relationships; the repercussions of being online all the time; sexual harassment at workplace; marital discord, to name a few.

In “Love in the Times of Demonetization”, a woman witnesses a long-lasting change in her life while the demon of demonetization devours the country. This story reflects on the significant influence of money on human choices. Tina, a social media editor in a news website company, finds her wedding being called off by the groom’s father because post demonetization the families find it difficult to pay for the wedding related expenses. This story captures the reader’s attention with opening lines that have a touch of magical realism- “Tina’s wedding was just five days away when it got cancelled. The country underwent demonetisation on the eighth day of November and with that, Tina’s father, fondly known as Amrit Uncle, sat on his worn-out rocking chair from which he refused to get up for the next twenty-four hours.”

Tina’s marriage is fixed with Prashant Arora, who works for a popular mosquito repellent brand(“Tina who felt like her kismet was about to be swatted like a fly.”) Set in Delhi, the unique flavour of the place comes when Sikhs jostle with Gujratis, couples date in Baristas, college canteens and Café Coffee Days. Tina’s father disapproves of her choice, Mohit Patel. Tina’s family “raised a huge issue with boy not being a Sikh.” The irony is that Amrit “uncle” as everyone called him, had been in love with an “Agarwal” girl for three years during his college days. Amrit quietly accepted Mohit’s invitation to talk one last time. “Let me make it right this time.” , Tina thought her father said those words to her, but Amrit Uncle actually thought of his own unrequited love. An estranged couple who had broken up due to societal pressure is finally reunited, all thanks to the note ban policy.

What is interesting about this book is that the author’s perspective is not bound by the clichés. She is mentally equipped to weave such tales of human emotions. Runa brings forth everyone’s perspective. She tries to unravel “the” truth and “truths” behind human motives.

My favourite story is “Unicorns are Magic” where a newly married NRI couple Tara and Aman find their marriage falling apart and a third person, a photographer, Roshini, walks in to make them see things with a new perspective. The couple rediscovers their real selves after they move to London. It is Roshini who tells Tara, “You got to believe in magic. Unicorns are magic”. Roshni writes an email to Tara, informing her of a wedding in London which she would be covering and that she would love to visit them. She visits during Saraswathi puja. The story is replete with the atmosphere of a puja with phrases like “conch shell”, “flattened rice with curd and the lentil rice . . .The house was witness to discussions, sights and smells unique to any puja in a Bengali household . . . neatly diced apples, guavas, chikus and bananas”.

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The homosexual undertones are subtle but hard to miss. Tara and Roshni steal a kiss during the puja and this leave Tara in a state where she questions everything around her. It’s as if Roshni provided her with a new perspective to look at the world. This is magical for Tara. The story is open ended as Tara meets Roshini and begins on a new journey of sisterhood and companionship. Tara finds her true self through Roshini who jolts her out of her inertia. The story has scenes that leave a lasting impression on the readers. Runa surely has a keen observation and subtle analytical skill to probe into the various facets of human mind.

“Told You So” is a story about a forty-year-old divorced woman Tarini Raman and a twenty-seven-year-old Shekhar Sharma, who is a “social media influencer”. Shekhar follows Tarini on Twitter. Internet is not the backdrop but a character in itself against which the characters act. “But internet was a place where you couldn’t question how people seemed like. You had to be okay with how or what everyone chose to be. To know more, you had to get to know them in real life, and well, that just didn’t happen anymore.” Tarini’s company was handling the PR for a film festival. She needed “influencers for creating a buzz on the internet, so thought of Shekhar immediately.”

They meet and “being with her made him forget all about the virtual double life he led.” They fall in love and relish the poetry of Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi. He realizes that she “was the reason he could interact normally with people again. For the last eight years, he had taken the easier route of knowing people online and leaving conversations under the flap of a shut laptop. That he could look into the eyes of a person again and feel human warmth was worth everything and he owed that to her.” The story ends with very profound lines, “Love doesn’t have to win to be love. Love is. That’s all.” They part their ways in the end with no strings attached.

With the “Me Too” movement running globally it is interesting to read a story build upon the issue of sexual harassment. Trying to go beneath the power machination of sexual abuse, “Outrage over Nothing” is a story about Vijay Deshmukh, a social media addict, and Lekha, his colleague, who work for a start-up YourMoney. Mudit Sehgal, the CEO of the company sexually harasses another employee, Poorna. Lekha warns Vijay. “And another thing, do not spew your venom on social media about this. You don’t know how serious this is,” she says. Vijay has a high opinion of Mudit Sehgal, the owner of YourMoney. To “imagine this man sexually harassing a woman seemed stupid. Why would a man who had achieved so much in such little time want to take chances like that? Or was it that the man thought he was doing a perfectly legitimate thing by complimenting her?” He writes something down for everyone in the virtual world to see, “What makes a successful man do something as stupid as harass a woman at the workplace.” Later he deletes his post.

Sky falls on Vijay when he learns that Mudit has made advances towards Lekha as well and is actually a “menace to the society”. Vijay turns out be yet another twitter revolutionary who fails to act in the real world. “All that outrage at bills not passing, rapes being committed, criminals being chosen as leaders, was for nothing. All that anger in him passed through his fingers onto the keyboard and evaporated. He hadn’t really acted for someone ever. He didn’t know how to.” Vijay deactivates his twitter account in the end of the story. The ironical use of the word “nothing” in the title itself is symbolic of society’s deepest fears regarding sex and sexuality and how anything associated with it is quickly silenced as “nothing”.

The book is well brought out with hardly any typographical errors. Though these stories are a product of urban set up, its appeal cannot be limited due to this reason as it has a universal approach and a wide appeal. All six stories of this anthology have women as the protagonists. Along with women Runa has given equal treatment to her male characters who often as fathers, boyfriends, sons, husbands, colleagues or friends play significant roles in the stories.

Runa is a literary enthusiast who tries to bring home the point that there is no singular truth. Truth is different for everyone and in its intricacies lies its magical charm. This is Runa’s debut book and holds a lot of promise.

Get it here: https://www.amazon.in/Your-Truth-My-Stories-relationships-ebook/dp/B076NXZFX8

Image Source: Amazon

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About the Author

Dr Sapna Dogra

Dr. Sapna Dogra completed her B.A and M.A. in English Literature from University of Delhi. She holds a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She can be reached at [email protected] read more...

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