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Book review 'Chasing New Rainbows': Chasing fulfilment

DECCAN CHRONICLE | ROHINI NAIR
Published Oct 21, 2015, 4:43 am IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 10:07 am IST
In Manika Lal’s latest, her protagonists lead entirely different lives, but are on the same quest for fulfilment
Chasing New Rainbows by Manika Lal Shree Publications Rs 199, pp. 352
 Chasing New Rainbows by Manika Lal Shree Publications Rs 199, pp. 352

In Manika Lal’s new novel, Chasing New Rainbows, she describes the lives of two childhood friends — Vasundhara and Kalpana — and the completely different paths they take. One experiences marriage and all the attendant trappings, whereas the other follows a career and professional routine. In their own ways though, each is unfulfilled.

The story of Vasundhara and Kalpana was influenced by Manika’s own interactions with women over the years, and the deep loneliness they expressed when they felt they were in a safe environment and their defenses came down. “Often, someone or the other will mention the lack of romance being the cause of it (loneliness). Initially I was rather surprised, as it seemed to be a more teenager kind of expectation — (but) that is how Vasundhara was born I created a story around the loneliness of two women, one married and the other unmarried, to explore the subject. Once the stage was set, the characters of the novel took over and the story progressed on their dictates. This also became a story of women who reinvent themselves somewhere along the way as they get in touch with who they truly are In that sense, the quest of these two dissimilar women is the same,” Manika explains.

 

While Chasing New Rainbows is her second book, it was still a departure of sorts for Manika, whose debut effort was a collection of short stories called Forever Vigilant. While one may imagine that the transition from short story to full-length novel would be tough, Manika found the process “very exciting”. “Holding on to the same story line and central idea with conviction, witnessing characters emerge and develop is like a long road trip. There are bumps, delays, moments of exhilaration, but at the end of it you have a story to tell.

Both books have been like wonderful journeys. I wouldn’t exchange them for anything,” she says. Manika juggled the writing of her books with her full-time career as a PRO for the Indian Railways. While this means she gets to put her “author hat” on only on weekends and after work hours, Manika says her work for the Railways has helped immensely with her creative writing. “As a person who writes for pleasure, being PRO for the Railways is the best thing that could have happened to me. (In my current role and even before that) I have written a lot of publicity literature professionally. The most important thing to remember here is that though I may have the vocabulary, the expression and the ideas, when I write for my organisation, it has to be very disciplined. I have to remember that I am writing for someone else. So I have trained myself to think in depth before I write. The question I invariably ask myself before I write publicity literature is, ‘What does the organisation want to communicate?’ Of course, I have the data and facts on the basis of which I write, but good readable publicity literature should have something more to say. The same training gets transferred when I write fiction as ‘What does the character want to say?’”

Up next for Manika are two books — a collection of stories and another novel. But for now, she’s hoping readers will take away from Chasing New Rainbows, the message she wishes to convey: “To put it very simply, fulfillment lies within and no matter what one does in life, one should not lose one’s sense of self,” Manika says. “So it’s about being true to yourself, and that applies to me, even as an author.”

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