Vipin Behari Goyal, the author of Tall Man Small Shadow, is a Financial Advisor in government of Rajasthan by profession. He has already published a travel book and a collection of Hindi poems and with TMSS he debuts into the fiction.
The blurb on the book cover says that the book is based on existentialism. To be frank, I was astounded by that sentence. I seriously had doubts whether I had heard that word ever before, let alone having read anything about existentialism. So, I was really curious and excited to read something based on it.
The story seems very simple on the outlook.
Salil is into software business and has entrepreneurial aspirations and has recently shifted into a new building.
Anupam and Sulekha are Aalya’s parents and happen to be impressed with their new neighbour Salil. Anupam is the over-thinker, philosophizer, and starts philosophizing even from simple or silly incidents that other humans tend to ignore. Sulekha is quick-thinker and a schemer of sorts.
Aalya is pursuing her doctorate under the guidance of Seema and her topic is uneven relationships. She is sweet, tender, caring, traditional yet modern, inhibited yet apprehensive and is an avid reader.
Seema’s marriage with her theatre artist husband Paul is on the rocks. Although they have an active sex life, they don’t have any children of their own and they don’t seem to be really happy with each other.
That is the reason, Seema uses Aalya and other girls like her to satisfy her sexual desires and urges.
As fate would have it, Salil and Aalya get attracted towards each other but aren’t verbal about it.
Soon, Aalya and her parents learn that Salil has had a tragic past where he tried to commit suicide just a year ago.
Why did he try to commit suicide? Is he depressed?
What happens to Aalya and Seema? And what happens to Aalya and Salil?
Are Anupam and Sulekha aware of Seema and Aalya’s activities?
To find the answers to these questions and some other, one will have to read the novel.
TMSS talks about the various issues in relationships in general. About marriages, break-ups, homosexual feelings, egos, emptiness in the marriages, domestic violence, being taken for granted, attitudes, about dominating and submissive partners, about balance in arranged marriages, about manipulating partners etc.
Vipin, through his character Anupam, also gives various advises on life issues, youth, society, relationships and how to deal with some problems in them, traditional and modern views etc.
TMSS is a simple novel, yet, at the same time, it deals with some serious issues and is thought-provoking in most cases.
Vipin has blended philosophy and romance so beautifully and delicately that you don’t feel excess of either and it doesn’t sound preachy or boring either.
Also, the language used is simple English where you don’t have to sit with a dictionary, as is the case with most of the other philosophical books.
The most amazing aspect of the novel is the strong characterization. Each and every character stands apart and you instantly connect with them and empathize, sympathize, think and feel for them.
Also, although it’s Anupam who is the narrator for most parts of the novel, each and every character does narrate/interact with the readers every now and then.
Another positive aspect of the novel is that we don’t feel like reading just another story. It seems that the characters are interacting with us, talking to us and guiding us to think about the same incident in a new vision and look at the same incident from a different perspective.
Anupam’s philosophies are wonderful. The way he looks at life, the way he puts forward his views, the way he talks, acts, thinks, reacts is amazing. You instantly take a liking towards him. The way he gets the inspiration/motivation from a tree, or a couple of birds is awe-inspiring.
But, the best part of the novel is the penultimate chapter where you are presented with the ultimate twist. Sulekha narrates this chapter and you are shocked, surprised, amazed, taken-aback at the revelation(s).
However, I personally feel that the author should have ended the novel with Sulekha’s narration and he shouldn’t have presented the last chapter with a view that was contrary to this chapter.
On the downside, there are a few grammatical and printing errors that proof-reading could have prevented.
Also, the narration often moves from third-person to first-person and that makes it a bit annoying and excessive use of pronouns makes it a bit confusing.
This isn’t one of those books where a reader finishes in one or two sittings. To truly enjoy, understand and cherish the book, one has to read a few chapters at a time, take a break, contemplate and think about the different philosophies offered and then come back to read the next few chapters.
Highly recommended for a highly intellectual reading experience. 🙂
Connect with the author here – Vipin Behari Goyal