The Monsters Still Lurk
A moving ode to life, with all its delicious little ironies...
Simplicity is one of the most underrated virtues, but Aruna Nambiar knows how to give it its due. In this slim novel, Nambiar conveys the plainest of truths in the most unassuming manner, and the result is a moving, powerful tribute to life itself.
The Monsters Still Lurk tells the story of a typical working-class family living in Mumbai - a sedate breadwinner father, a practical homemaker mother and three level-headed children all lead conventional lives in the city of dreams. Their lives move along expected arcs. Every milestone is celebrated with a mix of joy and cautiousness, and every setback is seen only as a sign of testing times, with the silver lining just there at the horizon.
The narrator, Vivek, who is the family's youngest child, dates the big events in their life by important events in modern history - 90s' liberalisation, Babri Masjid demolition, the dotcom bubble, 26/11, Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, Nirbhaya and more find mention here. It's a nice touch that serves both to lend a sense of immediacy to the characters' experiences and to point to an essential truth - that life goes on, rain or shine.
Nambiar gets into Vivek's head and speaks in his voice with ease. In the absence of gender signifiers, the reader doesn't know that the narrator is male till his mum suddenly refers to him by his name. Is Nambiar playing here with the automatic assumption that a first-person narrator's gender has to be the same as the author's? I marvelled at Nambiar's craft when the revelation came - until then I had assumed that the narrator was simply the tomboy kind.
This is a seriously funny book where even the saddest of events, including sickness and death, is dealt with a light touch.
The tragedy never overwhelms and the humour adds the much-needed perspective. This novel is full of life's delicious little ironies that will leave you with a wry smile.
Courtesy: THE HINDU