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
Price: Rs 399