Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lessons In Forgetting by Anita Nair: A Review

By John Cheeran
Who doesn’t think about beginning life anew?
Of course, such thoughts punctuate the middle age. Only a few hours ago I read a newswire story saying the middle age begins at 36 and the old stage starts at 58 (that’s in England).
Ah, well. I have recently finished reading Anita Nair’s novel Lessons in Forgetting. Characters in Anita’s novel talk about forgetting and coming to terms with second life. It’s a theme even I’m keen on. Apart from that how good is Lessons in Forgetting as a work of fiction?
Anita Nair, of course, writes well. It is important to admit that, for me, Lessons in Forgetting was the writer’s first book. But often writing well does not make a great work of literature. One may well ask, why should anyone read a particular book?
So let’s ask, why should have I read Lessons in Forgetting?
Does it offer any insights into life, relationships between men and women?
Anita Nair makes a valiant effort to present her work as a map to the minds of corporate trophy wives. It begins when a disillusioned corporate honcho walks out on his homemaker trophy wife. When Anita makes out that Meera (wife) did not know that Giri (husband) was planning to move out it does not cut any ice. Despite the pretty prose, Anita fails to come up with arresting reasons for Giri walking out on Meera, the flimsiest of excuses being lack of funds to climb to another level in life and Meera’s refusal to sell the old but sprawling bungalow somewhere in cozy Bangalore.
It also does not add to the charms of Lessons in Forgetting that Meera has been portrayed as the sacrificial lamb. It’s only after Giri has walked out, Meera knows other men, including the philanderer cine star and Jake, the storm predictor.
Unfortunately, I did not find any insights into man-woman relationships in Lessons in Forgetting. In fact, I felt that Anita Nair forgot how to conclude her lessons. How to finish what you have started used to be a great gift among story tellers. Some of the modern story tellers tend to make it more exciting by leaving it open ended, which, at least in this case, I find a weakness of spirit and craft.
A lot of thought, apparently, has gone into the writing of Lessons in Forgetting, such as weaving in the status of women in contemporary India by skimming the surface on female infanticide in Tamil Nadu. I’m told by a friend that during one of the launches, the book was handed over to a researcher on female infanticide.
Jake and his daughter in a vegetative state do not add to the strengths of this novel which held out so much promise in the beginning.
But I’m happy for one fact.
Meera does manage to stay on her feet in the absence of Giri. She finds a job, manages her responsibilities as a mother and a daughter and slowly accepts that life has more to offer, even though she does not know what exactly is in store for her. For that matter, who knows what has life in store for us?
And the very fact that Meera and readers do not hear anything more from Giri, apart from an email in the aftermath of his walkout, shows that it is possible to move on without dollops of guilt and bitterness on both sides.


chithrangada said...

is it really possible to move out without any guilt?i doubt!

whoami said...

I am currently reading this book and quite enjoying it. Anita Nair’s narrative style is quite exemplary. Two stories are spun out, quite tumultuous like the cyclone!

Don’t you think most of the socialites lead a life like that of Meera? Also there are fathers like Jak trying to solve the case of his comatose daughter!

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Jay said...

I recommend "Mistress" by Nair

Laxmi said...

Lessons in Forgetting is much-discussed novel written by Anita Nair.She uses analepsis to relate the protagonist's life and her struggle.
The fiction writer has not shown her affected by guilt.She stays sane and regains strength.
Prof.Laxmi Shanker

Angella said...

I've currently read this novel.The story is really appealing.It is completely relevant to the present scenario society.Only a woman can imagine the miseries that smriti goes through.This is the story of a woman smriti who raises her voice against the female foeticide.But fails to succeed in her mission and her life is destroyed by the devils who encourage the killing of female infants.

Nisha Meledath said...

Do check out my review as well at :

Suresh said...

You read a particular book because you like the author/genre/the cover...To look for reason to read the book in the book itself seems obtuse. Lessons in Forgetting is as brilliant as the first book Anita Nair wrote. The best one till date by her is Mistress.

John Cheeran at Blogged