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The author gives the protagonist a strong voice even when faced with confidence-shattering and life-altering situations...Pick up A Little Bit of Love for a quiet weekend.
Set in the heart of Mumbai, A Little Bit of Love by Arva Bhavnagarwala follows Afrah and Sadiq as they navigate the many forms of love which revolve around them while falling for each other. Some of those loves, unfortunately, wear uncanny masks, some are twisted at the centre, and some are cruel in the name of protecting their best interests.
A Little Bit of Love spans over the years 2005-06, opening with the floods which devastated Mumbai for days. Afrah had been on her way back from a job interview when the downpour took a turn for the worse and she had to wade through rising waters from the stranded local train to her home. It was there that she came across Sadiq for the first time, showing him the folly in his decision to wait the flood out in a bus instead of seeking proper shelter. Thus, the wheels of fate began to churn.
Afrah is a strong-willed character, who knows what she wants in life and is determined not to let anyone or anything deter her along the way. She dreams of someday being a teacher; after all, ‘what could be better than doing the job you loved and getting paid for it?’ Her mother, however, has different ideas for her life, which she thinks Afrah should model after her younger sister’s—married and expecting in a year. Afrah’s independent thinking, nurtured by her dear father, is a constant source of friction between the two. Her mother does not understand the need which Afrah puts simply as—‘I wanted some money that I could call my own. Earned money, not what I received as Eidi’. She also cannot comprehend her elder daughter’s insistence on continuing a job even after being married. But all Afrah wants from her mother, and her sister, is a little bit of understanding and respect for her choices.
Sadiq, on the other hand, has loftier ideals, embodied by his life motto—’Aim for the highest and dream your dreams. Then they will, one day, come true’. Being in final year of medicine, he’s close to achieving his lifelong dreams of getting away from the chawl and his narcissistic father, to earn enough to afford an apartment closer to work and bring his mother with him. Assisting him in these dreams are his bade-abba and his own unfaltering determination. But right when he thinks he has it all, things begin to unravel so fast, he struggles to collect the spools of threads strewn about him.
Amidst all this, Afrah and Sadiq meet again, and keep meeting thus, while they await the local train—a quintessential element in the life of Mumbaikars—to travel to their respective workplaces. Their bond grows deeper, rendering them blissfully ignorant of the hurdles which family pressure, unbreakable promises, a chronic medical condition, and life in general could present before them.
The author has peppered the story with a delightful dose of witty metaphors, often embodying the flavour of the characters’ settings and occupations. For instance, moodiness is compared to ‘the force of the water flowing from the taps in our house. Sometimes too fast, sometimes in drips’; describing the projection of narrow idea as ‘looking at a particular situation like a horse with blinders’; being tongue-tied might as well be the feeling ‘as if my tongue had been depressed by a spatula’. How Afrah and Sadiq describe the moment their hearts fluttered is even unique to them—‘like the wings of the sparrows that nibble on the grains Mom puts for them on the windowsill’ to ‘I wondered whether it was the atria or the ventricles that got wings’.
Along with sweet moments and smart, chuckle-inducing repartee, the book also takes the readers through a grounded experience of the city itself. From train compartments teeming with passengers to crowded localities to neighbours and thin walls of homes to delicious street delicacies, Arva Bhavnagarwala has somehow managed to pack it all within a single novel. Afrah, in one of her delightfully chirpy moments, describes the train ride to her colleague as:
‘I had a body massage today for twenty minutes by protruding elbows’.
Speaking of the female protagonist, the author gives her a strong voice even when faced with confidence-shattering and life-altering situations. Afrah blossoms into a resilient woman who would not stand for what society wanted her to be, if it did not align to her own sensibilities and preferences. Her temper brings out some of the best snarky remarks in the book, a personal favourite being the retort she yells into her phone suspecting the caller to be a telemarketer:
‘I’ll come through the phone and snap your neck in two and then make kheema pulao out of it!’
At times, the narrative voices of Afrah and Sadiq sound similar, but the pacing and the flow rarely let this aspect feel jarring. Neither of the protagonists fall into a typical mould of romance characters, nor are they revolutionary. They are simply their own persons.
Overall, A Little Bit of Love is a clean romance with no spice, except in the scenes featuring food such as dabeli, mutton biryani, chicken pulao, cheese wada-pav, et cetera. Pick it up for a relaxing afternoon or a quiet evening in with a steaming cup of chai. After all, a little bit of light reading with characters worth rooting for is all one needs sometimes.
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Image source: book cover Amazon
Image source: a still from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Clumsy. Awkward. Straight-forward. A writer, in progress. A pencil sketch artist by hobby.
IG: @leesplash read more...
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