India Was One is a fictional novel written by an anonymous author who calls himself An Indian. It is about two college kids hailing from different backgrounds, fall in love, go on to marry and then face the most tragic situation of their life. No, their love is intact, it’s just that their country is divided.
The blurb of the novel was what got me interested the most. It had a unique premise of the country being divided into two countries and how the love story of the protagonists suffers because of the said division.
Jai Rao (a Hindu from Karnataka) and Kaahi Parekh (a Jain from Gujarat) who are both settled in Mumbai, meet in college and instantly fall in love. Post their college, they let their parents know about their choices and the modern parents instantly agree for the match. (What?!)
Soon, the dates are fixed, marriage ceremony is grandiosely celebrated and they go on to a two-week long honeymoon across Rajasthan. After their return, Jai’s father asks him to look after their business in USA. They slowly and steadily get acquainted with the new culture, make new friends, settle down in US, go on to various short holidays including one across Europe.
As they are preparing for their first ever Thanksgiving celebration, the news breaks out that due to civic unrest among people and misdoings of some politicians, the situation in India is tense and that the country has been divided into two, North India and South India and that everyone is migrating back to their native places.
Kaahi needs to go to Ahmedabad which falls under North India and Jai need to return to Mumbai which comes under South India. The rest of the novel is all about how they deal with this new development and their separation.
What I really liked about this novel was the novel concept and out of the box thinking. The very premise that, what if one day India were to divide into two, was very promising. The love story around this division had the potential to be a wonderful tragic love story. Unfortunately, it is not to be.
Generous amounts of pages are spent on their marriage ceremony, the preparations, the explanation of delicacies, the cricket match, the baseball match, the honeymoon etc. Except, it takes away the interest from the real story and you’re left waiting for the real action to happen.
The biggest irritation of the novel was the unnecessary extra information that it carried with itself. Although it was enlightening, most of the Indians already know everything presented in the novel and it also sometimes disrupts the flow of the story. So, more than fiction, it becomes a travelogue for Mumbai, Rajasthan, USA and Europe. Similarly, more than a fictional story, the book seems like a non-fiction account that is targeted on foreigners to explain them about Indian culture in India and targeted on Indians to explain them about the lives of Indians living in USA.
The story moves at a snail’s pace for over 300 pages and in the last 60 pages everything related to break-out of civic unrest, division, separation of Jai and Kaahi is dealt with. What should have been the very basis of the novel – the tragic love story – has only been dealt with an abruptness leaving the reader even more disappointed.
While most of the novel is error-free, there are a few grammatical errors in the last part of the novel. The novel certainly needed a better editing team. At 368 pages, it is a long and tiring read.
Would recommend all the non-Indians to read it for sure to get insight into Indian cultures. And to the Indians taking this up, just don’t have high expectations.