As Robert Frost once said, ‘In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on’. Mishi Saran’s The Other Side Of Light dimly reflects the same facet of life. There are no bewildering twists or baffling turns that can make you lose your sleep here. What captivates you in the book is its language, which is as tender and melodious as the song of a cuckoo. And that is what Saran is acknowledged for.
The Other Side Of Light tells the story of Asha, who is born with a harelip which is cured in no time, thanks to the efforts of her parents.
Nevertheless, anxiety remains embedded in her because of her ‘imperfection’ that sporadically erupts through the book.
Two major affairs are the inflection points in the book. A camera gifted to Asha by Azra aunty gives her a reason to perceive the world from a different quion, for she believes less in power of words. And she decides to leave everyone behind in order to find herself – one year in Switzerland to study photography under a singular teacher Jean. His peculiar and taciturn behaviour stems from the pain of the loss of his young daughter.
Through the presence of Asha’s girlfriends, Melana, Nishita and Meethi, Saran views the vulnerabilty of being a woman. Teenaged Melana gets raped by her distant cousin and Meethi becomes a passive victim of atrocities by her debauched husband. But this is fiction and so the author gives them a happy ending.
Most events that have acted as historical turning points for Independent India are woven into the narrative, the riots of 1984, the years of Emergency, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Babri majid demolition, the insurgency in north-east India and the Mumbai blasts. The writer subtly weaves these events into the plot. For example, Asha loses her romantic, altruistic boyfriend, Kabir, to the insurgency in Assam, the second inflection point of the story. The loss pushes Asha into a black hole of loneliness. But the Bombay blast brings Akash into her life to fill the void created by Kabir’s loss.
Saran gives the cliched happy ending to all the characters but one. Melana finds her love in an American ‘girl’ and Meethi also discovers solace. What the author does with Asha, provides some aberration from the predictable. The promise Asha makes to herself while returning from Switzerland – ‘I promise I will never leave again’ will be reverted. Past agonies and every attempt and effort made by human beings to move on in life, accentuate the fact that whoever comes and whoever goes, life goes on...