A peep into womanís psyche
Reviewed by Aradhika Sharma

Love from the Sidelines
By Mayank Anand.
Frog Books.
Pages 347. Rs 350. 

THIS is a girly bookóchick lit, as it is known as in the dayís parlance. It speaks the language of women, it speaks of the concerns of women, and itís about, for, in and out of women. "So, whatís the big deal you may ask? Isnít that what chick lit is all about anyway?" Well, there is a big deal and the deal is that the book is written by a man; a man who has managed to get under and into the skin of the woman. The reviewer, being a woman herself, is somewhat uncomfortable that the bastion of her womanís psyche has been so stormed by a male!

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus? The author Mayank Anand certainly does not think so. The book is the first-person account of Sam (Samira) as she pours her heart out into her daily journal. One has to salute his guts at trying to be a woman and applaud his chutzpah and pulling it off with elan. The reviewer is certain that every woman reader is going to have her talons out when she realises what Mayank is trying to do and then, after a bit, she is just going to weaken and to give in. Itís all about her after all, isnít it?

Mayank is an actor, an author and an artist currently based in Mumbai but he doesnít plan to stick around there for too long. He says he never really has stuck around anywhere for too long. Born in Kapurthala, Punjab, he grew up in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, where he studied at Bishop Cotton School. He then moved to Mumbai for a short stint at St. Xavierís College where he was reading English Literature, before transferring credits to Knox College, Galesburg, IL, USA, to pursue a degree in English Writing and Theatre Performance. He is familiar to Indian TV watchers as Dr Rahul in the popular serial Dil Mil Gaye. In fact, the author is almost as interesting as his book! One of Artist Mayankís paintings now adorns the cover page of Author Mayankís book. "Yes, I painted it while I was writing the book," Mayank recalls.

The book is replete with the most charming doodles and sketchesósome elephants, a gaggle of geese, rain, a snowflake, a hibiscus, a mermaid and flowers and hearts aplenty. Itís a journal you see, and its writer (Sam) is an artist, so the words and the sketches must blend together to create the perfect expression. Itís only when Sam is going through a period of heartbreak and pain that the sketching comes to a standstill and we read pages and pages without any doodling to break the bleakness of Samís heavy heart.

Love from the Sidelines is a first-person account of Samís great love for Jim (Jimesh). They work in the same place, are in love with each other, laugh together, revel in each otherís humour, and enjoy each others company, joys and successes. The only hitch is that Jim is married. In fact, in Samís mind, thatís not a major hitch either. She does not mind being on the sidelines, so great and generous is her love. She justifies it and accepts it and makes quite a convincing case for it. "The finer details of what defines moral vs. immoral behaviour changes with the times Jim." (She writes) "Just a few years ago going to clubs, playing cards, wearing short clothes or showing bare skin at the beach was a sin. Look at how things have changed. Euthanasia and abortions were sins."

Yet, at every minute, the reader, especially the female reader, empathises with Sam. She is so feminine, so happy and so elated in her love, so generous to share, so blind in her adoration and the later so prostrate with pain and suffering the pangs of rejection. The female reader has feels it all along with Sam. The tragedy occurs when Jim is not ready to let Sam remain even on the sidelines and ruthlessly cuts her out of his life. And Sam cries to her journal, "Love tears me up like a demon, opens wounds and fills them with lead. If I didnít love you so much, I think Iíd hate you. If I didnít love you so much, Iíd wish you were dead."

The book that stars with the joy of loving of sweet Sam also has her lamenting, "If a beggar hung around for so long., youíd roll down your window and offer alms ... I am but your lover."

However, at the end of the suffering comes the resolve and the resolution and Sam finds her groove again. The book is funny and fun, lyrical and sad, trivial in parts and in parts full of gravitas. The format is interesting and titillating. Basically, Love from the Sidelines is a surprise pack, an easy read and it stays with the reader, "long after it was read no more."