‘More Things in Heaven and Earth’: Mixing memory with desire

The plot, straddling a guilty past and an ominous present, is craftily spun


The mind does not readily accept the passing of a loved one. It recoils, rebels, and

in desperation, reimagines all that has happened – a hundred different keys to

open a slammed door that will not budge. When nothing works, it seeks refuge in a

fragile but deeply felt universe where deaths can be undone. Kamla Malik,

protagonist of Kiran Manral’s More Things in Heaven and Earth often exits the

world where she lost her husband in mysterious circumstances to inhabit one

where he is there to smile at her, pat her, pet her and call her ‘moonface’. It is not

an easy migration for the young woman, however, because as Eliot had put it,

memory mixes with desire. In Kamla’s case, the emotional vortex curdles into an

intoxicating, almost inflammable brew.

As a heroine battling to prevent herself from tipping over into the death spiral of

insanity, Kamla holds your attention. She claims to look for closure but could well

be seeking continuity. There is a past she cannot erase and a future she will not

enter. She has friends aplenty and at least some parts of a caring family but all they

do is accentuate her loneliness. That leaves her in her own space and her own time

zone. It is neither here nor there, neither now nor then.

Apart from a heroine, alternatively assertive and vulnerable, there’s a lot going for

More Things. Fear stalks the pages. When you get acquainted with the cast of

characters, you do not try to figure out their age but rather speculate how long it

will be before they die. Horror of different shapes and shades is everywhere – from

the attic in their hillside home, congested with family skeletons to an entire upper

wing in a Goan villa where ghosts have taken up permanent residence. Even when

the sun shines cheerily on contented palm trees or when lovers arch into each

other’s arms, you know it’s only a matter of time before the sinister gains the upper

hand again. The plot, straddling a guilty past and an ominous present is craftily

spun, and borne along on Manral’s lush prose.

Here is a filigree artist whose medium is words. While there is a story to tell,

Manral also has pictures to paint – of the place, the people and of the labyrinth

inside her mind. She is fastidious about detail, even if it means venturing into

beguiling byways that take the plot off the road. Riveting as these digressions are,

they come at a price. When you have an obsessive miniaturist in charge of the

narrative, the story cannot be rushed. Impatient readers may want out.

Well, it’s Kiran Manral, and this is her trademark style – whether she is tickling

your funny bone, or sending chills up spines. For those who prefer journeys to

arrivals and do not mind digressions before getting to destination, ‘More Things…’

is well worth the ticket.

More Things in Heaven and Earth

Publisher: Amaryllis

Pages: 290

Price: Rs 399

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