WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
“Love at first sight is the dumbest idea. Only pigeons and humans can do that. Love is such a lame thing, and marriage ridicules it with commitment. It is great to believe that birds and animals do not follow this exercise called marriage.”
With these exact thoughts of the protagonist, Rohan Bhatnagar, opens Stand-by Love by Megha Ahuja.
Rohan Bhatnagar never believed in marriage. Why is that so, maybe a good question to ask but he has more pressing problems at hand that can seem strange and nerve-wracking.
Opening on one of India’s prime wedding destinations in Goa, Rohan Bhatnagar is seen enjoying his time with his family at his own wedding. The plush occasion adds to the beauty of the scenery to merge into a fantastic destination wedding that could have received a bit more description.
But Megha Ahuja chooses to keep things more straight forward and plunge directly into the major climax. Other than the locations such as Covala beach or Chicalim Church and short descriptive passages, the locales are not highlighted much.
Ahuja’s focus remains on developing the many facets of the characters. This helps to place the spotlight on Rohan, his attitude, behaviour and tastes.
The stage is set, the guests have arrived, Rohan is all decked up and so is his bride Akshi, or maybe his brides Akshi and Naina.
What seems to be cropping up is a set of confusing events that ring a bell of alarm in the minds of all. Displaying strange symptoms, Rohan seems to be forgetting things, a sense of feeling detached from himself and his own emotions as well as a distorted or unreal perception about things around.
Rohan suffers from dissociative amnesia. Flashes of a girl named Naina seems to trouble him a lot. She appears to him in his mind’s eye in a bridal attire but Rohan sees a man bludgeoning him with a rod. This is so much so that he can barely recognise his bride to be.
As the prologue rests on a subtle ending, the next chapter opens in the year 2007 in Dubai. The descriptions get better as the Hindi song “Sagar kinare dil ye pukare tu jo nehin toh mera kuch bhi nehin” is humming in the backdrop.
The plot has an up-and-down frame of flow as things take several sudden and unpredictable turns.
On the whole, Stand-by Love is a light read and can be read in a single sitting at a go. What holds together the work is the strength of characterisation.
There is a good blend of English and Hindi in the text to give a flavour of Indianness in which India and Dubai blend together beautifully. The change of locales adds to the excitement of the script.
Stand-by Love also comes with a beautifully designed book cover. It has the outlines of a man and a woman facing each other invertedly in black with stardust etched all over them. The cover is simple yet sophisticated.
Will Rohan eventually wed Akshi or will he never be able to recall her again? And who exactly is Naina and why is she so important in his life? Can love be really put on stand by?
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Stand-by Love using the link below.