"Truly Madly Deeply" is a song by Australian pop band Savage Garden, released as a single in March 1997. But here we are referring to debutant author, Faraaz Kazi's "Truly, Madly, Deeply ... Memoirs of a broken heart's First Love!" Whether it contains snippets from the author's life... my guess is as good as yours.
Kazi wears many hats. [Refer: link.]
There are some who love and conquer...
There are some who love and forget...
... and then there is Rahul Kapoor!
A pompous Rahul is head over heels in love with Seema, his beautiful female equivalent from the same school. After a whirlwind of innocent encounters, their teenaged romance blossoms yet both of them never confess their love to each other. A series of misunderstandings and ego clashes cause them to drift apart. Rahul loses his sanity and ultimately his love. By the time he realizes the magnitude of his loss, it appears to be too late. Will Rahul get back his Seema? Or will Seema never realize the depth of Rahul's feelings?
This teenaged love story seeks answers to all these and more as it alternates between the past and the present and makes you wonder; do all love stories have a happy ending? Or do all love stories end, ever? TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY promises to be an emotional saga that will captivate the readers' heart and fascinate his mind and leave him pondering - does love truly conquer all odds?
More about the book: here.
My Two Pence Worth: TMD is a story of teenage love, a big chunk of which is set in India, the rest in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia side of the story is established through: Burgers, pizzas and fries, some Indian-Yankee English, 'bloke', green Fairmount Park, Schyulkill River, Philadelphia's Museum of Art, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Van Gogh, Tacony-Palmyra bridge, Delaware River, etc.
Providing the desi touch is an assortment of Indian sweets: halwa, jalebis, pedas, laddus, gulab jamuns and the syrup-infested 'rasgollas'. This is further bolstered by references to some desi fast-food/snack: vada pavs, dhoklas, samosas, pav-bhaji and chicken kebab.
There's mention of 5-star too. [On a separate note, our famous 5-star chocolate bars have earned their stars - one bite is all you'll need... to know why we wrap them in gold.]
Speaking of teenage, TMD is nowhere near Hip Hip Hurray - the popular television series based on the lives of 12th grade students at the DeNobili High School and their adventures, their fears and hopes, their relationships and interactions. It is not an Indian version of The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew or even a Sidney Sheldon novel either. Kazi is called the 'Nicholas Sparks of India'. However, yours truly can't quite make the connection... being Nicholas Sparks illiterate. And despite the author's name (Faraaz) ... there's no raaz in the book.
Here's what TMD is all about: Rahul Kapoor, a school-going boy, is helplessly (and deeply) is love with Seema Tandon. There is a clutch of secondary characters: Sahil, Bollywood, Jay, Nazia, Grazil, Jess, Sapna, Farha, Asif, Dorothy ma'am, Godfrey sir, and a few others. Sahil has a meatier presence, followed by Bollywood. Lines from popular Bollywood songs, famous dialogues, including Rahul... naam to suna hi hoga are a recurring presence. There is also reference to well-known scenes like 'palat...palat...palat...' (DDLJ). To cut a long story short, Kazi's love for Bollywood shines through - very brightly (in a clichéd sort of way).
Rahul is introduced as a newcomer to Delaware Valley High School. He is shown as a heart-broken young man, lost in his own thoughts and indifferent to everything around him. Sahil tries his best to coax him out of his shell, but with little success. A sketch is discovered and a fight (with a bunch of uncouth American students) ensues. [The back and forth between them is ludicrous, to say the least.] Thereafter, we learn about Rahul and Seema's meeting, how their relationship turns into love... and how and why they drift apart.
There's mention of specially ordered Swiss chocolates: Ferrero Rocher (known for their refined packaging) and the legendary triangular Toblerone, giant Hershey's bars (not available in India around that time), Mars (which was available in select locations here). We are also told about Rahul going places to find a dealer who would import good quality chocolates sooner than others. And that he spent his entire month's pocket allowance to order expensive chocolates not just for Seema but also for her friends (italics in the original).
Other usual ingredients of a teen love story: petty fights, misunderstandings and jealousy (albeit, heavily contrived); Encyclopaedia Britannica and a quiz... to show the protagonist's intelligence quotient (obviously!), cricket... to display Rahul's supposed hero-like attitude, et al pepper the book.
Kazi has used poetry at certain points (before narrating a flashback scene). There are quite a few poems and sonnets in the book. [Note: They are all about love, culled from 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam', Shakespeare's 'Hamlet', 'Romeo and Juliet', Wordsworth's pieces, and the like.]
There's faded Wrangler jeans, Adidas sneakers and Rayban aviators. Not sure why, though. And oh, there's a Friendship card and a furry teddy bear (from Archies) too.
Did I (as a reader) connect with the story? Or with Rahul's supposed angst? Or even with the Rahul-Seema romance?
The answer is: No.
The reasons are: #1. Not fond of wooden dialogue and leaden plot. #2. No fan of clunky writing and clunky title. #3. It's tedious to plod through an ocean of clichés. [There's even the done to death rakhi bit.]
Frankly, had TMD been somewhat on the lines of Hip Hip Hurray that focused (in a light-hearted manner) on issues pertinent for the younger generation, I would still have enjoyed reading it.
That Kazi pulled out all stops for his debut book is very evident. He has tried hard; very hard indeed... as can be gathered from all the flowery language (read: high-sounding words) peppering the book. If the language had been simple and free flowing, the readers' journey could have been a little smoother.
Rahul comes across as chippy, an over-pompous immature boy prone to bouts of anger and outburst. Frothing with narcissism, his character seems to have fallen out with practically everyone he ever met - that's assuming he ever fell in with them in the first place. He does not come across as an all-rounder, let alone charismatic and intelligent. Rahul does not generate even an iota of sympathy. Instead: he needs a good shake-up, some perspective and a firm grip on his life.
One doesn't know what to make of the supposed Rahul-Seema 'romance' either. The novel often veered dangerously close to bathos. Also, anger or outburst need not be projected in caps.
Though pocket-friendly (INR 150) TMD is not a breezy read. [In fact, it took me a really, really, really long time to reach the last page. Phew!]
The book jacket cover (of the reprinted edition) is much better than the one that wrapped the first print run (2010). However, a lot of thought ought to have gone into the choice of titles - of each chapter. Stuff like: 'The Ego That Sparked The Fire,' 'Calumny, Confidence And Cricket Galore,' 'Apologies And Affections!' 'A Rendezvous To Bid Adieu,' and the like... rob off the readers' interest (if any) in the following pages. Given the author's penchant for songs, poems and sonnets, intelligent use of popular English song titles or even poetry would have been a good idea.
There is much scope for improvement (even innovation) there. Ditto the book blurb, language, grammar and editing.
Rating: I am going with a generous 2/5 for Kazi's debut novel.
Given that he has chosen the romance genre, the author should have opted for the more interesting dialogue or conversation format (instead of the impersonal 'telling' route). It's best not to 'tell' your readers what your characters feel. It gets monotonous after a while. Show them through dialogue instead. But that's very hard to do, and takes practice.
Besides, there needs to be cohesion, subject matter and good grammar. The main parts of a story are character(s), plot and setting. Grandiloquence alone is not enough. Also, setting a portion of the story in a foreign land is all very good, however, knowledge culled from surfing the net won't lend it authenticity.
Hopefully, with time, Kazi will do much better.
Details of Book: Truly, Madly, Deeply ... Memoirs of a broken heart's First Love!/ Author: Faraaz Kazi/ Pages: 310/ Genre: Fiction/ Edition language: English/ ISBN: 9789350880098/ Publishing Date: November 10, 2012/ Publisher: Mahaveer Publishers/ Binding: Paperback/ Price: INR 150.
Photograph: The book jacket cover of TMD. Picture courtesy: link.