Across the Line
Author: Nayanika Mahtani
Publisher: Penguin Publishers
Rating: 3.5 / 5
This is another book (after What Mina Did, Who Killed Liberal Islam, Yakshini and A Little Book of Magical Plants) that touched my heart and the characters left an indelible impact on my mind. If you know me, by now you would be able to understand that I seldom use this sentence as the opening sentence of my review. ‘Across the Line’ is a poignant story mixed with moments of nostalgia, longing, suppressed emotions and clipped desires. This is not a love story but a story about love!
Set in different timelines, the story fluctuates between the past and the present. While the past seems to be bleak and dismal owing to religious discrimination, the present bears the brunt of the actions that shaped the future of many families in the past. Two families, one of Jai’s and the other of Inaya’s, have taken time to come to grips with the fact that their country was divided a long time ago. The expanding hatred for the other religion is evident in their actions and conversations. While Jai and Inaya try their level best to eke out a bright future for themselves by following their passion, fate decides to roll the dice again!
Chance brings these two protagonists together in London only to make the readers realize that they had been playing the role of catalysts all this while. The real heroes of the story are different people- the grandparents of these children! Yet another story unfolds that sends jitters down the spine of the readers. As if that wasn’t enough, the author plays a masterstroke in the last chapter. Even though she ties all the loose ends together, she successfully leaves a huge void in the hearts of the readers. She successfully delivers the unexpected and leaves the eyes welled up.
Very subtly yet deftly the author touches upon numerous themes in this book. Right from questioning the worth of pen and paper that were made responsible to decide the destiny of millions to questioning the basis for and bias against religion- she doesn’t fail to make the readers introspect. Arathi’s strident remarks on sharing a table with Muslims to Irfan’s implausible excuses not to be together with the Hindus under one roof- all of them make us think if religion should be placed at a higher pedestal than humanity!
However, I deducted some points owing to the following factors:
One, the book has to be read in one sitting or else one might fail in recollecting the roles and the names of the characters.
Two, the theme of sports being considered the only battleground for two nations wasn’t explored completely. More emphasis on this could have done justice to the concluding statement of the book.
Overall, this book shouldn’t be limited to young fiction. Adults, too, can learn a lot from such stories set in the backdrop of partition. They can learn to put aside the unreasonable differences and become more welcoming towards the people of other faiths.
Best wishes to the author!
Buying Link: Amazon