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Manjul Bajaj’s Come Before Evening Falls, tells the story of a forbidden love and the destruction that Khap Panchayats can cause.
Review by Manmeet K Sahni
Manjul Bajaj’s Come Before Evening Falls is set in a pre-independence village of Haryana named Kala Saand. She has tried to capture the realism of rural India by taking up issues such as honour killings, same-gotra marriage and feudal inheritance. At its heart, the story is of a lovelorn couple, Rakha and Jugni. Belonging to the same ‘gotra’, their love is dangerous in a land where Khap Panchayats and honour killings are prevalent. Jugni’s fear is well depicted through her terrifying nights, filled with graphic images of ‘men with lathis’, ‘kerosene lanterns’, ‘flame torches’ and herself ‘hanging by the tree’ with her family reputation in shambles.
The narrative is gripping and holds you for most parts; yet at times, it seems a bit trite. For instance, the dramatic meeting of the protagonists is comparable to a classic ‘hero-meets-heroine’ scene straight out of a Bollywood movie. The antics of Jugni and the other rustic women like Kamala who is madly in love with Rakha, add some spice to the novel.
The tension in the story comes alive somewhere in the middle of the novel and the inter-play of emotions between Rakha and Jugni forms the nucleus of the latter half.
Come Before Evening Falls is multi-layered. There are subtle hints of prevailing caste issues like the act of digging of the ‘all-caste’ well by Rakha and his cronies at the school premises, so that all can drink from it without any bias. However the theme of ‘honour’ is omnipresent throughout the novel and in the end one is left with the pertinent question, ‘Whose honour is being defended?’
The novel starts with Rumi’s quote, ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’ This seems to be the core of the novel, where the love between Jugni and Rakha remains a void, a quest unfulfilled.
Publisher: Hachette India
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