Without You - Preethi Venugopala
Nostalgia fills my heart when I read about a young girl, Ananya, who goes home to her Ammamma's (grandmother) house at the scenic village of Sreepuram, "a traveller's dream", for a much needed break after her sixth semester examinations in engineering. Ammamma is Arundhati Mukundan, a award-winning poet, who had started her writing after the death of her husband. It is here that Ananya comes across Dr. Arjun, who appeared to her like "a Greek god". He is her cousin, Vishal's, best friend as well. His sudden appearance into her life makes the idyllic Sreepuram even more interesting than it already is, and Ananya's vulnerable heart opens up like a flower in anticipation. Rare for Ananya who had always been a tomboy, "a sprightly and mean thing" according to her cousins.
Both Vishal and Arjun are senior resident doctors in the medical college hospital.
Ananya loves being in Sreepuram, and when she is not enjoying the company of her young friends there, she loses herself in the beauty of the village."Sunlight filtering in through the few rain clouds that still littered the horizon gave shining silver borders to them... Perhaps an angel was about to emerge from it, to prepare the earth." On one of her outings, she runs into Col. R.S. Nair who holds a helping hand out to her whenever she falters.
Ananya and Arjun feel love blossoming in their hearts, and the artist in her strives to capture his image in her paintings. Her wily grandma is ecstatic with her choice and advises her never to "marry someone whom you can't love and respect."
However, there comes a juncture when her life falls apart and she goes back to Bangalore, taking refuge in the love of her family, and the vibrant company of her close friends, Poornima and Khushi. The next phase of life begins when she lands a job as a civil engineer at the prestigious company at Dubai - Al Bayed LLC. She enjoys her new job and the ambience of Dubai, where she meets colleagues, Lily and Tom, who, very quickly, turn into close friends.
Preethi Venugopala is a gifted writer who writes with her heart, be it about the plight of our country "How could I make them understand... that most of the girls in my family ended up in arranged marriages and astrologers played matchmakers?" or psychology - "It is often to strangers that we find it easy to confess our innermost secrets, because there is no fear of disdain." What are the circumstances that disillusion Ananya? Do she and Arjun find true love? What is that strange secret that locks all the circumstances together? You will have to read this page turner to find answers to unlock these keys.
Preethi's descriptions are ethereal, and her passion for Kerala comes across strongly. There is a lucidity about her writing that keeps the reader hooked from the start. References to Mr. Darcy, classic quotes from literature at the start of every chapter, and Preethi's own quotes on love, betrayal and friendship, make this a book that sings of the essence of 'Falling in Love with You'.
Verdict: As fresh as a tall iced glass of lime juice on a sun-drenched day!