Browsing through the new book releases for 2020, we came across Pankaj Giri’s debut book – The Fragile Thread of Hope. We found the book interesting as it is set in Gangtok and we thought it will give us glimpses of the Nepalese language and culture in Sikkim as well as being noteworthy in the Amazon ‘Pen-to-Publish’ competition.
|Book Title||:||The Fragile Thread of Hope
|Publisher||:||Fingerprint! Publishing (1 December 2019)|
|# of Pages||:||
506 KB; 259 (Kindle EBook)
|# of Chapters||:|
The praise for the book on the front pages included some lovely remarks from successful authors like Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni as well as praise from book reviewers.
Fingerprint Publishing provided us a complimentary copy for our unbiased reviews (Thank you 🙂 Fingerprint ) and for Team Thinkerviews I got a chance to read “The Fragile Thread of Hope” and let me share my thoughts with you…
We strongly believe that one shouldn’t judge a book (or for that matter, any media) by its cover. At the same time, we also recognise the impact of the first impression. And, the book cover is responsible for making its first impression, and thus, is responsible for many reading and/or purchase decisions. So, let us take a look at the cover page of “The Fragile Thread of Hope”.
Designing a cover page for this book is a challenging job attended quite effectively. On one hand, the designer needed to show the fragility on the cover page and at the same time, the story is an inspirational one as it spreads vibes of positivity. The designer has handled the job in a satisfactory manner. You can see soothing light colors in the background and the title is written in cheerful colors with thin fonts. Two prominent characters from the book are illustrated with very basic colors and you can see the ice-clad mountains and sky in the background. The leafless tree in the center symbolizes the incidents (explored in the book) and their nature.
Overall, a simple and thoughtful cover page.
The book covers the lives of a few characters who eventually merge together, and so there are multiple narrators. The first few chapters introduce us to Fiona, her husband Joseph, Fiona’s mother Sharon and Soham.
As we begin the story, Fiona and Joseph are returning to Gangtok when their car meets with an accident and Fiona loses Joseph. Slowly we learn about young Shanti‘s life as she marries an almost stranger and eventually finds love with her husband. They are a happy family of three when their daughter Falguni arrives. But this happiness is short-lived as alcohol leads Shanti’s husband away. There are quarrels and domestic violence, eventually leading to his death leaving Shanti and Falguni all alone and to some extent helpless.
Shanti has a small job in Carmel Catholic School. Here, Father Francis helps her in getting Falguni’s admission and giving her support to lead her life without her husband. Shanti decides to become Christian and becomes Sharon while young Falguni becomes Fiona.
Although Fiona and Sharon’s life is stable now, Fiona carries the scars of her father’s behaviour towards her mother and refuses to engage with men when she grows up. However, Joseph succeeds in winning her trust and they become friends and eventually marry. So, when Joseph dies, Fiona’s life falls apart again. Months pass but she finds it very hard to come to terms with Joseph’s death.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Soham. He also grew up in a small family in Gangtok, comprising of his father, mother and his elder brother Vikas. Vikas is a young, athletic boy who does well in performing arts, but not so well in Maths and is forever being scolded by his father, while Soham is the studious type. One evening, when returning from school, Vikas dies in an accident.
Soham carries the guilt of this for the rest of his life, while he studies engineering and moves to Bangalore to work for Dell. Here, he finds a love interest in Shruti, only to be disappointed. He reconnects with his parents when they come to Bangalore to take care of Soham after an accident. But all his good intentions to shower love and affection on his parents remain unfulfilled as his father dies in a car accident while going back from Bangalore and the news of his death takes his mother too.
So here are these two souls – dealing with so much grief at such a young age…
Will they ever get over it and find peace and happiness?
The name of the book gives the impression of a book filled with sensibility and emotions, and that proves to be the case as you read it. The stories are simple, everyday stories. We read so many such stories in newspapers every day and then forget about them as yet another piece of news. But for the people involved, such incidents must prove life-changing. Pankaj Giri does a good job of portraying the emotions of his characters through the simple narrative without over-indulgence in dialogues or script. Thanks to the multiple narrators, there is a bit of suspense-thrill element in the first half until you know the background stories of the main characters.
As I mentioned earlier, the setting of Gangtok is one of the intriguing features of the book, as it gives the readers an opportunity to learn about the language and culture of this picturesque city, so near the Himalayan mountains. The author does give us a few glimpses of it:
It seemed as if they had gained the highest peak of Gangtok. The range of mountains visible towards the west felt insignificant. The farther away the mountains were, the more their colour seemed to drop from green to blue and then lighter shades of blue. Dark clouds looming over the hilly horizon were on the verge of swallowing the setting sun. Droopy branches of cherry blossom trees hung over the narrow pathway like a natural roof. A small Tibetan-style shed stood overlooking the string of cowering hills.
I liked that the local language of the characters, i.e., Nepalese features in the book in a lot of terms like Nani (dear one), Aama (Mother), greetings like “Jai Mashi”. There are couplets from Nepalese songs like below:
Jindagi ko ke bharosa, yo ta sano khelauna ho
Dui aankhama ek ma haso arko ma ruwai cha
(What certainty does life have? It’s merely an insignificant toy with two yes – one brimming with happiness and the other with tears)
The author also includes little descriptions of customs and festivals including Dashera, Diwali, Bhai Tika aka Bhai Dooj and how these are celebrated by the residents of Gangtok. Here is an example of the traditional blessings on Diwali:
When you touch water, may it turn to oil; when you touch stone, may it turn to gold; may Goddess Laxmi bless this family with prosperity.
Such instances emphasize how all Indians are united in the celebrations of such festivals in spirit although we may have different names for them in different languages and have different customs in different states. The thoughts and the essence remain identical no matter where we are.
And so is grief. Losing a loved one at any age, in any place brings us grief that we cannot express in words. It is easy to advise others to ‘Move on’ as you see people doing in formal Shoksabhas and the message is well-intended. But, coming to terms with grief is an individual process and every person has to travel this road alone and at their own pace:
Who knows what happens to loved ones after they breathe their last? Do they leave us forever? Or do they stay back to offer guidance until we become slightly normal again? Or do they never abandon us, hovering around us always? Even if it is false, every bereaving soul requires the assurance that their loved ones are with them even after death.
Memories of a loved one are like roses in a cheap bouquet. The bunch may mostly have fresh roses, but it will have its share of rotten ones, too. The fresh ones will also have thorns, so they might hurt you just the same. But if you focus on their beauty, their fragrance, they will drown your pain.
“If thousands of tears could make a pathway to heaven, then I’d shed trillions to build a stairway, and if memories were a lane, I’d walk all the way just to bring you back…
Living in this world without you, is living in no world at all.
Living in this world without love, is living in a worthless world.
(Dream Theater – The Ministry of Lost Souls)
And although with time everything fades, sometimes we are afraid of just that:
Time heals our pain by erasing memories of the past, but it doesn’t distinguish between good and bad ones. It just wipes out everything gradually. It leaves behind imprints, but after a spell, even if we want to, we cant recollect certain things. Call it a blessing or a curse it’s the way life works.
The first half of the book is filled with events, while the second half of the book gives us more of a spiritual journey of the two characters as they learn to live without their loved ones. In the dark times, it is not uncommon to think – why live at all? If everything we do and everything we have could be lost in an instant, what is the purpose of playing this game at all? As both characters ask such questions, Soham starts his journey of a quest on spirituality. Let me share some of the quotes from the book that highlight his interactions on the meaning of life:
We easily forget how unpredictable life is. We are so lost in the materialistic world, so engaged in chasing our desires, so entangled in the mesh of our relationships, that we tend to overlook this harsh truth.
Why do we search for peace in this materialistic world, when it is present within us? Peek within and feel the bliss.
Truth is something which is beyond change. Everything in the world is changing – matter keeps changing state; lifestyles, communication processes change; continents have merged into each other or disappeared in the past. The world, as you see it, is a lie, an illusion.
This illusion or maya diverts us from the ultimate goal of human life. We attach ourselves to its distractions like relationships, sensuality, material belongings like property, wealth, vehicles and so forth. We forget that we are going to leave everything and everyone behind. We came alone in this world and leave alone.
Niranjan mala ghat me phire din raat,
Upar aawe niche jaave, shwas, shwas chal jaat,
Sansari nar samjhe nahi, virtha umar vihat
Through all such discussions, the author emphasizes that spirituality is the true essence of all religions. You may have your own views on different religions, but the author shows us how sometimes people change their religion when they are going through difficult circumstances. Like grief, this is also a personal process and everyone has to find their own path to God, while trying to do good deeds in this life and following the good moral teachings that all religions preach.
The central message of the book is to traverse through difficulties and never accept darkness or defeat when you face difficult circumstances. As the author says:
Sometimes destiny invades our life like an enemy, snatching the light of happiness from it. It is easy to lose or way in the dark maze of despair and give up on our precious lives, but we must hang on. Life always suspends an elusive thread of hope for us in the darkest of times. We must try to find it and hold on to it until the clouds of darkness disappear and give way to light.
Whenever the gift of happiness is bestowed upon you, embrace it and savour it until it lasts, because long and unforeseeable is this life, and fragile is the thread of hope you must cling on to.
All in all, a nice inspirational read…
Around 7.5 out of 10.
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