Five individuals brought together by a friend to spill their guts, bare their souls and in the process, to embark upon a journey of self-discovery and...and...what? Inner peace? Forgiveness? Redemption? Perhaps a melange of all the above...
This is the premise for Raksha Bharadia’s, “All and Nothing.” A successful author in the self-help genre (Me: A Handbook for Life; Roots and Wings), Raksha is also the first Indian editor of the Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul series, having edited close to a dozen best-selling titles. So the expectations from her first ever work of fiction were high.
And she has met those expectations with confidence and elan!
An engaging book, the characters introduced to us by Raksha have a disquieting sense of familiarity – maybe we can recognise qualities and traits of friends and family members in them; maybe we can even see bits of ourselves in them.
Beautiful, talented and sensitive, artist Tina believes she has found the perfect husband in Aditya. However, her seemingly made-in-heaven marriage turns awry as Tina unsuccessfully struggles to free Aditya from the shackles of his past – a past which he can’t seem to break free of, nor does he seem to want to. His betrayal almost pushes back...almost. Just as she’s about to teeter over the edge, she pulls back and realises there life is still worth living. One just needs to break free from one’s shackles of sadness and be brave enough to make a grab for that cloud of happiness. And it is this new-found realisation of hers that she wishes to share with her closest friends, all of whom she knows would benefit from it: celebrated fashion-designer Kriya who has a sordid secret; confident, beautiful socialite Poorvi whose sense of self-worth seems to hinge on the one thing that she does not have; Manas, suffering from a broken heart and bruised ego; and domestically-abused Upasana, an intelligent woman who should know better.
Raksha allows us to be a voyeur into the lives of all the characters and as we listen to them relive their lives and spill out their secrets, we can feel their pains, their dilemmas and the result is sometimes shock, sometimes judgemental – after all, we can’t help but be.
And it is this, my personal sense of judgement, of right and wrong, of punishment and redemption, that threw up a few dislikes, because I didn’t believe in the final resolutions of some of the characters. I think Aditya got off waaaaayyyyy too easy, Antara (Aditya’s ex-wife) deserved to face some sort of hell and Poorvi’s route to deliverance was a cop-out.
But then, that’s just me. I am not as forgiving of crimes and faults as others are. I have a harsher sense of fairness than others. But like I said, that’s just me. To others, probably everything falls into place perfectly and ties up tidily. And still, there may be others who might feel some of the characters suffered too much in their own personal purgatories and should have been let off more lightly.
However, that’s the delightful thing about reading isn’t it? The characters and experiences colour your world as much as you allow your world to colour your reading of that fictional world.
For a first book, Raksha has done a fine job! It makes us eagerly await her next one. After all, a good start only guarantees a great follow-up, right?