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Book Review: Vismriti by Naina Kaur

Naina Kaur’s debut novel, ‘Vismriti – the Art of Forgetting’ is contrasting and ironical in its core essence. Memories and forgetfulness shape up our life and its course, what we want to reminisce and what we want to forget is always a tussle in the mind. Vismriti is a Hindi word, meaning fail to remember or trying to forget something unpleasant event or experience.

The novel pulls a chord from two sides, one is memorizing and the other one is trying to forget, to shut it down from the cask of subconscious. Nobody is either inept or innate with the mechanism of memories! There are some experiences that we never want to forget, and a few could be so untoward that you not only want to forget but also erase them.

At the helm of the story are more than a few characters, including the auxiliary ones. Ira is the protagonist. She is living a happy life with her daughter Myra, in Mumbai. However, her past haunts her. Now it is calling her. She hates her mother, wishes not to see her anytime in her life. Noor – her mother – is dead. Her last wish was to meet Ira. But it couldn’t be materialized. Other characters intercede as she reaches in the territory of her mother such as Chandu, Sameer, Mishaal, Hairless, and a few more – yet the scaffold of the story weights on Ira, Noor, and Sameer.

Two men of Chandu kidnap Ira and her daughter Myra, brings them to Benaras, to that lodge where Noor breathed her last with contemplation of hopes. Rest of the story remains in Benaras. Ira is supposed to do the funeral of her mother reluctantly but as the situation arises, Noor’s dead body is taken by someone else – a man.

Ira continues her struggle in the place where she grew up, subjected to sneers and taunts because of her mother. The vestiges of her past life resurface to evoke a sense of that spell. However, the priest Mishaal’s funny behaviour fills some air of freshness in her heart, as the city is busy in doing rites that could result in salvation. After Ira, Mishaal leaves a tinge of influence in the storyline. The author vividly and pragmatically captures the religious air of Benaras.

One after another events led Ira to meet Sameer – who has forgotten everything about his life. But his memory holds dots of the puzzle; he could give reasons and explanations to Ira about Noor. Ira is frustrated with the system and people, she had grudge against them but with time she realized that all sins look faded and afar. She now considers the people of her once locality with kindness and revived emotions.

With Noor, Ira, and Sameer lies a few old family secrets – none of them is happy about that – yet they try for redemption in their own ways. The author exclusively captured the nuisances of town life and how people treat women. From a women’s point of view, life is never easy for them – they either have to suffer the consequences of someone’s mistakes or burden of their own fate.

The novel is poignant in evoking the unseen and unspoken emotions that could spurt when a family loses its sheen and becomes shattered and distanced from one another. Naina balanced the story with actions and thoughts of characters. The book has an emotional depth, its characters are peculiar but true to their shades. It can be concluded that we cannot balance the snatches of memories and forgetfulness in our life. It comes and goes as with the circumstances and evokes reminisces.

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