by Rana Asfour
Debut novel 'Forever' by Indian novelist Rajiv Shah is a love story between Arjun and Karishma, college students in India, who meet by chance and fall in love. Everything is perfect until Karishma is found dead and an investigation is launched, led by detective inspector Rahul and his partner and love interest Susan. In a recent interview with the Khaleej Times, Shah has said that although the main characters in the novel are fictitious, some are based on real people he met during his university years at Jai Hind College.
The novel begins fifteen years after the case has been solved. Inspector Rahul is on annual holiday in Kashmir when he receives the annual letter from Arjun which the latter sends each year on the anniversary of his dead lover. However, this letter is different in tone, as twice Arjun hints at the fact that he may be dying and it is his wish that he meet the detective one last time before he departs this world to be with his Karishma.
Only when Rahul receives a phone call from Arjun’s mother urging him to visit the dying man does he decide to make the journey. Once there, Arjun’s dying request is that Rahul, who ‘has not even written articles in his life’, should write a book about Arjun’s doomed love story. And so, just like that, ‘Rahul the detective transforms to Rahul the author; a new rebirth, a new avatar, a new karma to look forward to’. And so begins the telling of ‘the love story of Arjun and Karishma as well as the most interesting and unique and life changing case of my life’ writes Rahul.
If this is sounding all too Bollywood, then you’re deliciously on track. The writer is a self-confessed Bollywood fan and as such, much of his love for these films has definitely trickled into the writing of this story. Not only does the main character Arjun seem infatuated with all things Bollywood, the novel is rife with references to Indian film stars, poems and songs – many that Rahul and Arjun compose themselves. Personally, I am now a big fan of the 'Pehla Nasha' song that Arjun refers to in one of my favourite passages in the book when he describes the moment he knew he'd fallen in love.
The novel delves into Indian culture and offers readers a bird’s eye view of a way of life that is usually very private and inaccessible to outsiders. The story also touches on the expectations of today’s youth in love, particularly the clash between tradition and modernity. I particularly enjoyed the great reveal, the missing piece of the puzzle that slots in its place at the end of the book! Brilliantly played Mr. Shah!
Most typical Indian mothers desperately care for and are concerned for their children, no matter how old the children may be. And being and Indian son, whenever a woman calls you beta even if she is unrelated to you, you become the beta and would want to fulfil the wishes of that woman. This is the beauty of the Indian culture and the bond between possibly the most holy relationship in the world, mother and son' - 'Forever' by Rajiv Shah
And yet sadly and as much as I hate to say it, the book suffers one major drawback which comes in the form of its editing. For a story about love, this point in particular, breaks my heart to pieces. I do understand that writing a book although an exciting journey is most often a stressful one too, and I do appreciate the added pressure when one writes in a language that is not the mother tongue (I do this all the time). However, for an ESL writer, diligent editing is paramount. So much so that the success of the whole project ultimately depends on it. Essentially what solid editing does is make what you have to say more powerful. And I would have loved to have seen that for Shah’s well-structured and compelling novel.
All in all, this is a promising debut and Rajiv Shah is a promising writer. I have it on good authority that he’s already hard at work on a trilogy. The book is published by Notion Press and is available at Jashanmal Stores and Carrefour. It can also be purchased online at kinokuniya.com, souq.com as well as Amazon.
Rajiv Shah, is a Chartered Accountant (CA) and a Financial Consultant. He is currently the Chairman of the CA Chapter and an Hon’ble Secretary of the Indian Business & Professional Group in Abu Dhabi. He also acts as a Director on the Board of various companies in the UAE. Rajiv found his alter ego in writing poems that soon led to writing romantic fiction.