“She stands at the window every night, a bystander to the life that surrounds her.”
The haveli with the hundred doors, a silent sentinel that has stood over the decades, speaks of despair absorbed, heated discussions, reminiscences, of a family that “has gone through its own trials and tribulations.”
The head of the Sharma family, Arun, is the breadwinner, passive and resigned to his fate. His wife, Uma, is the real strength behind the family, full of gumption and emotional fortitude, as she protects her offspring in various ways. “He handled the world outside the wall and she, within.”
Aruna, Bhavya and Charu are born in quick succession, but it is only when Dheeraj is born that Uma feels usefully productive, for she has produced the heir apparent. However, then comes God’s gift to Uma as Etti, Fanny and Gina make their appearance.
Aruna, the eldest, separates from her first husband, the cruel Rafi after his “never-ending onslaughts on her persona”. The window of her dreams, (“it was a part of her”) is her own corner, a swirly grill in blue, where she had woven dreams of a soul mate. She marries Bhuvan Thakur, a safe and steady man, “to validate herself to a judgmental world”.
Bhavya is “an epitome of uniqueness and diversity”, and the sisters have gone through an ordeal which pushes them apart. When they meet again, they are both apprehensive, “unsure of how to deal with the water under the bridge… and yet not.”
Harshali Singh writes with feeling of the various vicissitudes that the exuberant family goes through, as Gaurav, Bhavya’s colleague, enjoys “the affectionate bonhomie, the lack of formality, the strange warmth and proximity of this large family. He could sense undercurrents, but they were buried.” And that is exactly what the book is about, undercurrents between Aruna and Bhuvan, between Arun and Dheeraj over the latter’s career choices, between the sisters, and over wise little Charu, who sees more than she actually sees.
Aruna, who carries the baggage of her first marriage, is like a fragile flower. Just as she begins to bloom again, her past threatens to catch up with her. Bhuvan treats her with gentleness, this beautiful girl “one minute transparent like glass, the next instant an opaque mirror.
The characterization is subtle. Bhavya, the warrior princess; the troubled young Dheeraj who “had plans to make and dreams to catch”; Charu, “wraith-like, with enormous, beautiful, silvery eyes” who was born with “a gift and a curse”; the stoic Uma, who makes difficult choices despite her bleeding heart; Suresh, Arun’s childhood friend who is part of the family now and Arun, whose forbidding exterior shields the love he bears for his family. Rafi comes across as the villain of the piece as his presence hovers across the book, a reminder of the malevolent effect he has had on the vulnerable Aruna.
Harshali Singh’s imagery brings the story to life. “To her, the blue swirls represented waves in the sea or a soft zephyr bestowing a feeling of openness and beauty. Transporting the person who stood at the window to any imaginary world that only they had a gateway to.” These words bring the cover image of the book to life, suggesting that much thought has gone into its choice.
As the blurb suggests, does Aruna take control of her life and save her marriage? Or does her past shackle her all over again? Do read ‘A Window to Her Dreams’ to find out.
I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Questions to the author, Harshali Singh
1. Would you term your protagonist, Aruna, a strong woman? Do give your reasons, either way.
2. What made you decide upon the haveli as a character in the book? I think that was a brilliant touch.
3. Who is your favourite character in the book? For me, it would have to be a tie between Bhuvan and Uma.
Thank you, Harshali, for an interesting read! Here's to many more books!