Here comes the next book – One Amazing Thing!
Once I was done with the previous book, which was a great read, I did not want to give an interval and hence, took “One Amazing Thing” the right next day. The book had been there in the list since long time back. One of my best friends, who is a bookie by herself (who is also an inspiration for me) had waited for Chitra’s second book after reading “One Amazing Thing”. But the wait wasn’t worth it and we will come to that story later.
“One Amazing Thing” is considerably a smaller book with 208 pages. The cover of the book doesn’t reveal much about the story inside yet it appeals to be pleasant. For me, I have never qualified a book based on its cover – so it really doesn’t matter (Yes, I don’t judge a book by its cover 😛 )
Some books are like normal action movies. From the beginning, you will be engaged and you don’t need to pay much attention to the emotions. Where as, some really good classic movies will have a very slow opening and as the movie plays, you will start realising the beauty of the lives it speaks about. The author had tried to give such an opening – a stilled introductory scene with a subtle hint on the events those are about to unfold. Once the characters are displayed, you get to know the diversity with which she is planning to play.
A rumble – as Chitra has quoted it, brings down the Indian consulate in US. There are nine people who get caught in the building – with the walls of emotions closing them further, leading them to remember one amazing thing they want to share at the last few hours of their existence . So this is the one liner (I know, literally it is of two lines 😛 )
The story actually starts when the silent (assumed as conservative) Jiang – an Indian-Chinese woman starts explaining her initial years in India. As the characters start explaining each of the amazing moments, the initial portrait of each character which the reader has painted starts to evaporate. The fact that it is human tendency to over throw logical dots and largely have a preconceived notion towards an another human is well displayed here. Everyone of us, in the first few minutes of our interactions with a fellow human being, tend to oversee the little known facts and judge them as we want them to be seen. Chitra has taken this as one of the core elements and screens the transformation of each character (before & after) beautifully.
When it comes Malathi’s confrontation on being selfish or Jiang’s honesty on accepting the love that she has not expected to grow over her accidental husband, the author has woven an emotional web around the feminine lives. The flaws of each character – is one thing that makes me like a book. Since each person is prone to be flawed, it becomes more natural for a book to depict as who we really are. Let it be Mangalam or Cameron, the acceptance has made these characters more realistic than their heroic/theoretical actions during the crisis. Also, when it comes to nine different people and their lives, it is very important not to have a repetitive style/subject. Chitra has done that perfectly and has given the reader a variety of lives. One thing I would appreciate is the detailing (though not places and numbers) with respect to the culture that exists in each region ( I was able to relate to Malathi’s story and assumed she has got the other regions right 🙂 )
Coming to what could have made the book a better read – since there are nine people, the book could have been a bigger one which displays details in each of their lives. Life stories could be elaborated and still can be made not boring (like that of the old classics, war time real life stories). I remember “Thaneer Dhesam” – a Tamil book that tells about six victims caught in a fishing boat in the middle of an ocean. It was a well-written, detailed, lovely book that was heavy as well as gripping till the end even though the author had only taken the softer aspects of life as the core agenda. And even though we understand that there is nothing the crew can do, it sounds a little unacceptable to see the kind of calmness they display(except for Tariq) through out the period.The protagonist saves her story for the last, which increases our expectation (particularly when she says ” my story is not ready yet”) and at the end, leads to disappointment since it is more or less equivalent to the others.
Keeping this odds aside, the book could be appreciated for the absence of ordinariness (a perfect protagonist, romantic college drama, female lead who can do anything, bla, bla) and taking a different path. It takes courage to take the softer aspects of life and weave a story around it. For that uniqueness, kudos to the author.
Overall, the book aims to give one amazing thing of the victims caught in an earthquake while it actually takes us through the underlying grounds of each character’s existence.
And true that it is, it takes a ‘death’/’near death’ to realize that mere existence of self itself is one amazing thing.