The limits of love
Shubhshil Desraj

New Life
Sharmistha Mohanty.
Roli Books. Pages 292. Rs 295.

New LifeTHE amazing prowess of love and its magical essence are a poet’s dream and not practical possibilities. Love in the common man’s experience is neither eternal nor infinite. It has its limits, "`85everyone’s love has limits`85 and the limits can be `85hard, unbreakable."

Animated by passionate love, Anjali and Riaz disregard community, religion, social background and parental disapproval and get married. While still married to Riaz, Anjali is romantically drawn towards Richard and Amar. One day, with his bags packed, Riaz tells Anjali, "How can I be everyone to you always?" and walks out on her to be with the new woman in his life.

The doting father, who has always professed his eternal love in all entireties for Anjali, cannot overcome his prejudices to bless the union. Love is reduced to a mere glandular mechanism.

When Anjali and Riaz meet, their lives take on a new colour, a new direction and a new spirit. Love becomes a source of comfort and emotional gratification, their needs, desires and expectations merge. Together, hand in hand, they visualise themselves journeying through time, hearts beating in unison, belonging to each other completely and forever.

Anjali and Riaz go to the USA to escape the oppressive atmosphere created by family, friends and society. In the new world, there is widening of understanding and deepening of knowledge. They absorb and assimilate the new mental and emotional atmosphere.

They return to India and, suddenly, life comes to a standstill, when closed up in a darkened room, Riaz announces his intention of leaving Anjali for another woman.

For 11 months, Anjali goes through the agonies of separation and torture of the mind. She withdraws from the outside world and lives within herself, constantly and continuously trying to know herself better. To relieve the emotional impact of the stressful situation and to still her tensions and anxieties, she decides to go to an ashram in the hills.

In the sylvan surroundings of the ashram, consciousness and sensory perceptions enable her to draw upon the cumulative knowledge of many lifetimes, past memories, experiences and events to make sense of the present. Analysing, introspecting and psychologically investigating, she sifts her information to give shape to self, reality, relativity, time and the complexities of men and emotions.

She meets Sarajubala, who presents her with mystical insights and visual imagery. She meets her father on the metaphysical plane and all bitterness on both sides is purged through catharsis. The pathetic tragedies of her life are replaced by the gleams of hope. With a strong sense of self she feels as whole. And then Riaz walks back into her life.

Sharmistha Mohanty has the gifts of a sharp intellect, ample literary power and immense imagination. With artistic skill, she finely paints Anjali’s life in brilliant life-like colours. Liberally making use of symbolism, religion, mysticism and materialism, she creates a fascinating work of literary art.