Harsimran Kaur ON Jan 10, 2023, IN BOOK REVIEW, THE BOOK OF EVERLASTING THINGS: A NOVEL BY AANCHAL MALHOTRA-FICTION
Samir is the proprietor of his nose; a fjord seeping in the aromas swinging in the air, flagellating uncontrollably to imbibe a smell that holds no boundaries and boundation. The nose—the unadulterated nose—follows the warm and smooth sandalwood scent, is enamoured by the rose—a smell desirable to flitter the nerve impulses, and passionately draws close to the sensual and sweet jasmine. Samir is born with a nose to smell, an extraordinary gift to not just inhale but feel the texture that spores the fragrance of emotions; the mysteries hidden deep in the vessel of the mind, blemished by love and enlivened by hate. The smell, undiluted and unchaperoned, awakened by its accustomed texture, is no longer hers; Samir encapsulates its origin and functionary in the mind that only learns to love her—Firdaus—the name that holds no boundaries and boundation.
Firdaus too yearns for Samir; not knowing that love can be a turbulent tide. Samir and Firdaus fall in love but are separated by the catastrophic events of partition and religious animosity. In the midst of Hindu-Muslim divide, their love is incarnadined by gobbledygook ethos and ghettoized identities. The mind can never be a reflection of the heart; emotions buried deep inside meet a turbulent fate as mind excavates the invisible concoctions of love and despair. Firdaus and Samir; what remains behind is a love divided by mind and enlightened by fragrance of memory.
Aanchal Malhotra, in her debut fiction novel, ‘The Book of Everlasting Things’ has provided a language to love, not ornamented by the priggish banter of ‘who crossed oceans for love’ or ‘love eludes the disciplines of life’. It talks about love lost to be found through memory and the imperturbable pugnaciousness to live with it. Families charred to dust during partition and the indefatigable antagonism incandescently purged in hearts is a discreet awareness of love inflamed in the septic of hate; the remnants of which are everlasting and inconspicuously touched by a ray of banished memory.
Samir Vij, a perfumer with a natural ability to smell and create invigorating fragrances lives a life torn by irreplaceable tragedies and carries a secretive alliance to his Uncle’s past. He feels an indelible need to unfurl what has been left behind to know life in its veracities of its destined prolapses and undeterred governance. The horror of partition remains like a sticky wax brushed in the memory forever.
Firdaus Khan, an illuminator learning the art of naqqashi from her calligrapher father, remains a dissected wound that fails to heal. In decades to follow, the hurt is desiccated by a longing that clusters the muscles of the heart to squeeze in silent protest.
Fastidious and poignant, the story of Samir and Firdaus is about memories that keep us alive. Our affiliation to the present has a lot to do with the displeasures of the past. Past; blind in its reflection, deaf in its interpretation and dumb in its solace still gives a momentary pleasure because we wish to construct and deconstruct it again and again to suit our capricious impulses. Aanchal Malhotra has beautifully journeyed through the effervescence of the past when Samir and Firdaus fell in love to be eventually venomed by their distinctive identities. Gradually, the present of their lives becomes a past, strongly etched in the mind, forsaken impartially to the vicissitudes of life.
The love of Firdaus and Samir—a never ending stream of divulges and denials, prevaricates and palliatives and the fragrance that keeps them united.
In the midst of the incandescence spooked by the tentacles of partition, all is lost between Firdaus and Samir. But, they continue their individualistic journey, for love is not dishevelled by the intemperate winds; what is left behind is a stack of chiselled sediments purging every layer of the skin as a remembrance.
From the dusty streets of Lahore to the provincial landscape of Paris, love transcends years of despair, longing and a parallel stoicism of regret and reunion.
Love deeply etched in the heart is lived till the last breath—a book to remind you that love is the closeness felt by our own instincts making it eternal and undisputed.
Extremely sentimental and passionate…