Nandita Bose’s new novel Everglow, her fifth, a love story set in a world of music and musicians, made me feel — of young love, of dreams, of a time when dreams were possible — a feeling that swells inside you when you encounter something that could have been your life, something that you wish were your life, even if you cannot differentiate between a raag and a khayal.
Everglow tells the story of Disha, a student of classical music, who, after her father’s death, comes to live with his best friend. Here she encounters a highly Anglicised family, with a large brood, with their individual quirks. Among them is Siddhant, Sid, the lead guitarist of a rock band, Derozio Dreams, who discovers Disha’s musical talents and invites her to join his band.
Against this backdrop of the fusion between classical and rock (there’s a lovely chapter which describes the strenuous process as Disha tries to match her classical vocals with Sid’s guitar riffs) love blossoms inevitably, as our heroine tries to make sense of this almost taboo romance, given their cultural differences, not to mention the opposition from the respective families.
To say that Bose’s narrative template is derivative is an understatement. Everglow is My Fair Lady meets A Star is Born; it’s Abhimaan meets Saaz meets Aashiqui 2. Everglow reminds you of all classic Mills & Boon tropes — poor girl meets rich guy, taboo love, palpable passion — it’s the classic Pygmalion story.
In the hands of a less experienced author, all these would result into a mediocre novel indeed, but not here. Bose knows her genre inside out. At a time when novelists are increasingly suspicious of passionate love stories as realistic and use it only ironically, especially to comment on larger aspects of socio-political life (excluding the so-called popular fictions from the author like Chetan Bhagat and his ilk, of course), Bose has an un-ironic, almost Sufi belief in love. And this shows, in tiny little details, as Disha begins to fall in love with Sid, inevitably and irrevocably.
And there’s the music. Here too, the author’s steadfast trust in the power of music, irrespective of genres, shines though her impeccable writing. It’s indeed difficult to write about music, but the way Bose describes her heroine’s aural experiences to us, you almost hear the music yourself.
The book made me feel young again. It reminded me of the days when we’d go and watch Dil To Pagal Hai in theatre every day for a whole week. It made me remember Judy Garland in A Star is Born. It made me remember the time when I would read heaps of Mills & Boon novels under the ruse of learning English. It made me remember the time our relationships defined our lives.