This review is a tribute to eminent Hindi litterateur Narendra Kohli who left for his heavely abode on 17.04.2021.
I am a mystery lover and quite naturally, fond of reading and watching a lot of mysteries. In my view, the biggest and eternal mystery that has not been solved till now, nor is expected to be solved in future, is male-female love. How does this love come into existence and why some particular one falls in love with another particular one, is something nobody can perfectly understand and therefore nobody can perfectly interpret or explain.
However I happened to read a Hindi novel titled as Preeti-Katha (love story) written by eminent Hindi litterateur Narendra Kohli. I am amazed to read this novel which is a very sincere and very logical attempt to explore this phenomena through certain characters. I am not saying that the author has been able to resolve this eternal mystery through the story and the characters of the novel. All the same, the way the characters of this story come out before the reader and their thought-trains become known to him / her, the reader gets a fair idea about romantic love in the real world.The characters of Preeti-Katha are urban educated people. Mainly the story runs through only two characters – Ketaki and Vineet. It is mainly the story of Vineet set in 1961 when he arrives at Delhi (from Jamshedpur) and seeks admission in graduation in the Delhi University. Ketaki becomes his classmate after one year or so when she also gets admission in the university in his class. However they remain good friends and nothing beyond. After graduation, Ketaki moves to Canada and gets settled there in due course of time after marrying Dr. David Patterson, a professor of Indian culture and philosophy. Vineet stays in India and after becoming a lecturer in a college in Delhi itself, settles down in family life by marrying Shobha and begetting two children through her.
Two decades have passed since the parting of these two college friends. It’s 1984 now when an international seminar on translation (ANTARRASHTREEYA ANUVAAD SAMAAROH) takes place in Delhi. When Vineet reaches there to participate, he is stunned to find Ketaki there who is now known as Dr. Ketaki Patterson and has specially been invited to read her paper in the seminar. First he hesitates in approaching her, thinking that she might have forgotten him. But even after a two decade long time gap, Ketaki recognizes him. She visits his home also and Vineet is quite uncomfortable with her visit because his wife and children have gone out of station for a couple of days.
The real story of Preeti-Katha starts now in the household of Vineet where Ketaki behaves with him quite frankly and informally just like a true and very close friend. She remembers that Vineet was in love with some girl during that bygone era and she insists him to narrate his love story (Preeti-Katha) to her because now they have ample time – ample time for Vineet to narrate and ample time for Ketaki to listen. Then Vineet travels the memory lane and the past incidents come alive in flash back. His (epic) love story involving two girls – Chanda and Mallika runs for hours and Ketaki listens everything quite patiently, intermittently adding some facilitating comments from her side. Finally the love story narrated by Vineet ends with his separation with Mallika as thereafter he did nothing but entered the mandatory struggle for earning a living and building a career.
But the thing that Vineet never comes to know even after spending so much time with Ketaki is that Ketaki too had a love story (her own Preeti-Katha) that she never shared with him despite being himself being very close friend of hers and she has decided not to share with him even now. She was apparently his friend only but silently within her heart, she was in love with him. Seeing his fascination for the other girls, she never expressed her true feelings to him and remained satisfied by being his SAKHI (a close female buddy) only. The thing that Vineet also does not share with her that despite having his different love story (in fact love stories), he had a fascination towards her. And despite being uncomfortable by her frank visit to his house in his wife’s absence, he is scared of himself lest he should lose his control and gets close to her in that situation. However the maturity in his personality gets better of his old (and always hidden) flame towards Ketaki and he does not make any such advance or take advantage of the solitude prevailing in his home. However the end of the novel underscores this fact that Ketaki is even more mature than him in this regard when she decides to bring her luggage from the guest house and stay in his house until his wife and children come back (so that she gets properly introduced to them and his wife does not misunderstand him upon coming to know of an outsider woman’s visit to her home in her absence).
In Hindi literary circles, Narendra Kohli is well-known as an author skilled in penning novels based on the Indian mythology and the Indian epics (Ramayan and Mahabharat). And hence this novel of his came as a great surprise to me. Entering a field, different from his forte (i.e, the Indian epics and the Indian mythology), he has penned a heart-warming novel using modern characters from urban life. And let me declare it loud and clear that the eminent author has come out with flying colours too in this effort of his. The novel is damn interesting right from the very first chapter and it’s pretty difficult for the reader to leave it in-between. But the thing is that other than keeping the interest of the reader alive throughout, he has quite successfully delved deep into the psyche of both the males and the females. He has seen the people, the situations and the relationships from the perspectives of both and put forth a stuff which is utterly logical and hence reliable. Though he hasn’t been able to explain how love takes birth in the heart of a male for a female and the heart of a female for a male but he has very skilfully jotted down what goes on within them after it has taken birth. How they understand and misunderstand the other one and how they interpret and misinterpret his / her talks and actions. How the young lovers grow up with age and experience and how they learn to hide their true feelings from the one whom they are meant for.
Being well-versed with the Indian epics (plus having a fancy for them) , the author has compared the friendship of Vineet and Ketaki with the friendship of Krishna and Draupadi in Mahabharat.
In addition to love, the author has very proficiently explored the psyche of the lovelorn males. We know through Shakespeare that ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ but what about the males ? The author has very correctly underscored how a male feels when he finds (or feels) himself as refused. The fire burning within him tells him only one thing – ‘Rise and rise only in your life and become so big that the scorning ones feel themselves as dwarfed before your towering personality. And then regret for discarding you’. I know through my own experience that the author is absolutely right.
I rate Preeti-Katha as an excellent romantic novel which provides genuine insights into the mysterious phenomena called (romantic) love and the psychology of both the male and the female lovers. Written in impressive yet the language of common use (unlike his refined, Sanskritized Hindi used in the novels based on the Indian mythology and epics), this novel is a grand treat for the lovers of Hindi literature.
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