Dr. Aparna Salvi Nagda’s novella ‘Not so Grave’ will have you in splits, and the very next moment, a tinge of melancholy will overwhelm you. Albeit for a second. For the author’s trademark humour hovers over us, just like the aroma of kadha prashad and rajma chawal over the Singh household.
I will try to highlight the pros and the cons as best as I can.
One equates death with shock and endless bouts of chest-thumping melancholy, specially when it involves a Punjabi family. However, beeji is a stoic woman who handles the aftermath of her son’s untimely death with poise and grace. Penning a novella from the perspective of a dead man is not easy, but Aparna has managed it with élan. This work has her trademark humour stamped all over it. Punjabi women with hirsute chins, screaming hai rabba are no doubt stereotypical, but manage to elicit a chuckle or two from the readers.
The novella is a heartwarming tale of love, respect and acceptance between two women – one a staunch Punjabi, and the other – a TamBrahm. Poles apart, but united by their grief over Robinhood Singh. Beeji sharing her experiences with a dildo were hilarious, and I mentally saluted her for being a fabulous mother (in-law) to Pushpakala.
If I were to nitpick, I would wish for the novella to have a tighter editing. Some minor typos crept in, although they didn’t mar my reading experience. Pushpakala saying ‘Palakkad on my platter’ in Karnataka Bhawan amused me, as the cuisines of both the regions are entirely different. Also a TamBrahm would prefer sambar rice over bisse bela bhat. The hawk-eyed South Indian in me spotted avival where it should have been avial. Again, I am not emphasizing this to criticize the writer. This is an honest feedback from me to better her writing skills. I wondered how Robinhood mused over Dante’s dark comedy when he was barely educated.
On a lighter note, I wanted ‘Tom, Dick & Harry’ to be replaced by ‘Tommy, Diljit & Happy’. Or some names only the Punjabis are capable of conjuring.
‘Not so Grave’ made for an enjoyable read. On a lazy rainy morning, curled up on a sofa, sipping adrak chai, this feel-good (yes, even when dealing with something as morbid as death) piece of work will make you ponder over the fickle life. I just wished the ending were not so rushed. I would have preferred a nuanced character arc of Pushpakala. Jugal’s father’s disclosure seemed a tad too filmy to my liking. Nevertheless, this made for an enjoyable read. Aparna has in it to come up with something far better. I wish her all the best in her future endeavours.
My rating – 3.5/5