Rooh, A Novel

Kajal Kapur posted under Book Review on 2023-06-14

And she would ask, 'where are you going?' 'Home,' I would say. 'Where is home?' she would ask. 'Here, at the turn on the lane, there is a school, up ahead from there.' 'You come up,' she would say. 'How? I can't see any stairs,' I would say, and Rooh would start laughing. I wouldn't be able to go up, but Rooh would come down. 'Now that I have come down, let's go,' she would say. 'Where?' 'To your home.' And just like these lines, the author nudged by 'Rooh' traverses his steps back to his childhood, seeking the fragrance of his father. I am unsure if Rooh was really a person the author knew, but for me, in this book she seemed like his conscience, his voice of reason, who'd lead him to a nook back in his childhood, which he is unsure if he has the courage to visit, and write about. This is what he writes about Rooh- Sometimes, it so happens that some people come into your life for a short period of time, but they end up knowing you more than the people whom you have always lived with. In this stream-of-consciousness novel, Manav Kaul, touched a chord with me in a way I was almost expecting. There is a part of my childhood that I seem to have lost in Kashmir and while reading this book I kept searching for it too. In the beginning of the novel, when the author is just about to begin his journey back to Kashmir, he says, 'Time is imaginary. It takes the shape of how you live in it.' Towards the end when he is about to wind up his journey, he states, 'People lie that time moves at its own pace. In reality, time sometimes runs slow and sometimes it moves swiftly. Time has its own empty circles. Each circle has its own time and its own speed.' And just like it seems, this narrative from the author also wafts between time as imaginary and real. His story of 'what could be' and 'what is' displays the yearning of his soul. Through his words he brings alive the Kashmir that is absolutely his own- a person, a place, a blue door, white walls and a fragrance. And in his aspiration to chase it, he reaches out to his untrue childhood, reclaiming what is lost. Childhood is never as simple as it seems. In the process of growing up, the corpses of the compromises of childhood show up in the lines that get traced on our faces in those years. 'Rooh' is one of the best books that I have read this year, for sure, for its beautiful dream-like narrative. Also because a large part of the author's life, his loss, pain, and longing that I got to witness. How wonderful are books to transport us to a place that the author has envisioned- physical as well as metaphorical. I just hope that through this book the author has found closure with his father and with Kashmir, which in some strange way seemed synonymous to each other. It surely would have been such a cathartic experience to have written this book and to bare his soul to us all. Like he says- ...coming down is always easier than climbing. And I just hope his climb back into his own history has been rewarding for him. If one is looking for the Kashmir that the world projects in this book, then they would be left disappointed. But if one is open minded enough to accept the author's version of his childhood Kashmir and all those questions he tries to find out answers to about why it turned out the way it did, then one would surely find value in the author's words. This is a personal account and should be embraced with the same emotion. ~*~ Get your copy here: