Death is only a horizon
When Rossiter W. Raymond said, ‘Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight,’ it seems he had Annie Zaidi’s Gulab in mind. Writers, poets, artists have all attempted to immortalise love through their works but what if the lovers decide to cringe to their lives? What if they refuse to let go long after they are dead and the last goodbyes have been said?
Gulab is a story of love but it is also a story of desires — a desire to stay and not step into the ‘other world’ forever. A desire to claim and attain all that was denied or unachievable when life exited. It is a story that pushes the boundaries of human imagination about the afterlife.
Nikunj receives a telegram asking him to come and attend the burial of his beloved - Saira. He is heart-broken and grief struck. Though Nikunj is married and has two children he has never considered that to be a constraint in his and Saira’s coming together. He has just wanted to have her back in his life ever since they lost touch following a destructive earthquake. The story begins with Nikunj arriving at the graveyard and most part of the story is played out here. What happens after his reaching the graveyard is the stuff of a nightmare.
The sequence of events is really eerie. The delineation of events will make you feel that Nikunj is in the midst of a bad, very bad, horrifying dream and that he will just find himself trembling and shivering in fear, but safe and comfortable in his warm bed. But what Nikunj is faced with is real. The grave he wants to shed tears on to unburden the emotional exhaustion that he has suffered because of years of separation and longing for his love has two more claimants. And then there is a lady too. Clad in a burqa. She appears and disappears and then appears again. The secret of her identity is held on till the very end of the book.
There is a whirlwind of conversations, heated exchanges, physical fights and helpless sobs as the tempo builds and the mystery deepens. It’s nothing sort of a roller coaster ride, smooth one minute, scary the other and in between pregnant with foreboding.
The hunt for Saira’s grave drains Nikunj physically and emotionally but it also leaves him absolutely flummoxed.
Who is Saira? Who is the real claimant of the grave? Who drew Nikunj to the graveyard? These questions will keep ringing in your head right till the very end of the book.
Gulab tests the limits that our mind sets upon a ghost’s powers. Our imagination of ghosts is limited by what we have heard of them. They are those who have crossed to the other side of life. But what if they have refused to do so? To what extent can they go to feel ‘alive’? Can they also produce children? In the afterlife, possibilities extend into infinity.
The book is also a tale of a lover discovering his beloved after she is dead. You may break free of troublesome relations when alive but you can’t break-up with the dead.
Annie Zaidi has done a commendable job in putting together this story. It may not scare you and give you goosebumps, but it will shake you and make you think what kind of a life you can have with someone who is dead.