If you go through my reading list, you’ll notice that it’s not too often that I read Indian authors. I don’t like their portrayal of India and Indians – it’s generally geared towards selling a picture of India that Westerners would like to believe. Of a dirty, grimy city and uncouth “brownies.” (One Indian author’s description of Indians. Really.) But there have been some interesting novels by Indian authors lately, like the Immortals of Meluha by Amish, so when I saw the blurb on the back of All and Nothing, I knew I was going to have to give it a read.
From the back cover:
All and Nothing tells the tale of five individuals. Tina is a talented artist, desperately in love with Aditya. But he cannot let go of his past. Their marriage sours and Tina teeters on the edge. Kriya is a fashion designer, chic and successful – but tormented; Poorvi, is a socialite and feminist – but discontented; Manas is a struggling copy writer, besotted with Gayatri – but plagued; Upasna is a willing victim of domestic violence.
Then one day, Tina summons her friends to share their stories from the beginning.
The bulk of this slim, 223 page novel is about Tina and Aditya’s whirlwind courtship and marriage. Aditya is everything that Tina wants in a man, and Tina is everything that Aditya wants in his wife, but while Tina loves Aditya, he’s still not over his first marriage with Antara. Things between the two start souring barely a year into their marriage. For Aditya, this was a marriage of convince, a way to get ahead in his career. Tina, desperate for his love, clings to him, tries hard to ease his hurt from his first marriage, and when all fails, turns to the bottle. She becomes an alcoholic. It takes her a long time to realize just how hollow their marriage is, and when she does, she decides to leave him. It is then that she invites her friends, all of whom are carrying a secret alone, to share their stories from the beginning and to help one another begin their healing process.
The novel is quite well-written. Raksha is evidently an astute observer. Her insight into relationships and understanding of the human psyche is well-reflected in the narrative. The characters are well drawn out and believable, and she hooks you in to their world and makes you care about them. There is a lot in the novel that anyone in a relationship will be able to identify with, because at the end of the day, no marriage is all roses, there are the occasional thorns. There may have been a few grammatical mistakes here and there, but it was easy to overlook them because the story was so gripping. You really wanted to know what happened next and how each of the people would cope.
Overall, All and Nothing is a beautifully observed novel that takes a close look at different relationships and what makes them tick. I would heartily recommend it to everyone.