Paro: Dreams of Passion by Namita Gokhale is the first fiction book that author wrote. I have read her earlier anthologies like Travelling In, Travelling Out and In Search of Sita. I liked both the books, so I was interested in reading Paro too that came bundled with her latest novel ‘Priya’ that is in a way sequel to Paro.
Paro was written in the mid-1980s. The story takes you back to the Mumbai and Delhi of those times. The life of high society and what it revolves around, especially among women is the key angle of the story. Paro is a Diva and Priya the storyteller of Paro is in awe of her. She meets her in Mumbai, then they become friends in Delhi. They go through cycles of friending and unfriending – before the days of FaceBook.
Priya and Paro need each other. One looks up to other – who lives life with an abandon and dies young. The other needs a support system to fall back upon. One is steady in her marriage despite the temptations both she and her husband give in to. There are men as husbands, as lovers, as friends and as rich men who must be tempted.
Though it is titled Paro and kind of ends with her death, the story really belongs to Priya – who narrates it in the first person. It is her obsession with Paro that defines Paro mostly for the reader.
Namita Gokhale’s writing is sensuous. She gives you the sketchy details of the love lives of her protagonists with all the twists and turns. The book lives up to its tagline – Dreams of Passion. Some reviews I read of the book call it Pornographic – well that is one way to look at the book as the author does get graphical enough. However, you can keep that aside and look at it as the story of women who come from lower middle class or middle class and suddenly become part of upper echelons of society. Sometimes, they design this life for themselves and sometimes they work hard with their partners to get there. The inner turmoil that they go through in changing, the adjustments they make and the masks of fakeness that they weave for themselves is a highlight.
Narrative of Paro is gripping and you may find it difficult to keep the book down once you start reading. It moves fast in an unpredictable way that you keep looking for – what next. There is hardly a dull moment and there are no repetitions. Even when some scenes between same characters repeat themselves at intervals, Namita makes it look fresh with a different setting or different treatment.
Characters are so well defined that you know them almost as soon as they make an entry into the story. I loved the way Namita has brought out the bittersweet relationship between the narrator and her obsession. There is an element of aspiration and envy in the narrator’s voice all the time.
There is also a good sub-story of how a lawyer and his wide network their way to become the who’s who of Delhi. I was wondering which of the current lawyer leaders’ story is this part inspired from, there are quite a few of them. The way they network their way through in Delhi circles will make you think of networking in a whole new way.
Lenin – one of the characters makes you think of people like him you know – a typical left person, living off others all the time and being Intellectual in his own mind.
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Overall, it is a spicy sassy story well told.
The twin books come in interesting formats. There are two covers and no back cover. You read one book, turn around and read the other. Since one is the sequel to the other, read Paro first and then move on to Priya’s story.
I read them back to back, stay tuned for the review of Priya soon.
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