When I first heard Harshali Singh talk about her novels, Haveli Series, in a conversation with Dr. Aparna on the Penmancy forum, I was struck by two things. One was how poised and graceful Harshali was, and how exciting her books appeared!
A 150-year-old Haveli in the thick of the ‘real’ Delhi, Naugraha, Chandni Chowk, that has resided in form of bricks and mortar with 100 doors sounded like such a fantastic premise. Always curious, I wanted (still do!) to explore what lay behind each doo –what secrets it hid, what treasures it once hid, and what treasures it still hides. With a family comprising of the patriarch, Arun, his wife, Uma, and seven children (yup!), Aruna, Bhavya, Charu, Dheeraj, Etti, Fanny, and Gina, who stay in the haveli with Arun’s BFF Suresh, the Haveli (nicknamed Anwar by Charu) is such a delightful character. The best inanimate character that I have come across so far. The series, three books old, chronicles the lives of the first three sisters, Aruna, Bhavya, and Charu with a promise of more to come. (Harshali, what is the delay, girl?)
It breaks the ice with a book appropriately titled, ‘A Window To Her Dreams’, which is about Arun and Uma’s firstborn, Aruna. Aruna, a young lively girl who was married to her college lover, Rafi. Rafi, unknown to her, turns out to be a cruel and emotionally/physically manipulative control freak, who has all but crushed Aruna’s soul. She divorces him and accepts a proposal from her college friend, Bhuvan. Bhuvan, the strongest character in the book besides Uma (and the Haveli, of course), was one of Aruna’s friends in her college who always had feelings for her.
The book examines Aruna’s feelings as she is about to step into a second marriage with Bhuvan. It also deals with her life post-marriage where each step is paved with some kind of misunderstandings and silly decisions (mostly hers.) Like in a typical Indian scenario, our families are always hovering around us and there is no respite from them at times, but Aruna’s family is adorable. Her mother, her sisters, her only brother, Suresh Uncle, all made for real-life characters–people we have met or people we are related to. The whole feel of the family felt lived in, and comfortable.
Aruna as a character has been etched well–her misgivings, her irrational thinking marred by her past experience have been brought out well. There were times when I stopped reading the book and had to curl my hands in a fist as I fought the urge to shake her. Or even slap her on the head. That girl needs lessons in confidence was my thought. This speaks highly of Harshali’s talent in engrossing the reader and making them feel for the protagonist. #AwestruckByHarshali.
The plot is very engaging and has got its hooks in me and when I finished the book, I automatically gravitated towards the second. The language, sentence structure, etc. used by Harshali is top-class and I didn’t find anything specific to mar my reading experience. Her words bring out the visual imagery of the mansion, how royal it must have been, and the joys and sorrows it must have seen and maybe, experienced.
All in all, ‘A Window To Her Dreams’ by Harshali Singh is a highly recommended book. Please pick it up.
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