MEHR: A Love Story

Edited By: Maya M. Haidar (UG 20)                  

Before anti-romance readers reject this book based on its title, it is imperative to clarify that ‘Mehr: A love story’ extends beyond the domain of love. Famous for his work ‘The Umbrella Man’, the author Siddharth Gigoo is an active filmmaker as well and perhaps by no coincidence, 'Mehr’ has a typical Bollywood touch to it. 

Initially, it would appear that the book is a love story between Mehr, a Shia woman from Pakistan, and Firdaus, a young man from Kashmir. As the narrative progresses, this opinion changes with the transformatory events exposed to us through a third character, NAME, who, following instructions from the intelligence officer Major Khas, begins to investigate a group of people that includes Firdaus and Mehr. 

             

D- Dilemma

P- Passion

I- Insanity

P.R- Political Restrictions.

In incorporating areas like passion, dilemma, liminality, political restrictions, insanity, Gigoo has made a commendable effort in making each theme intersect with love (as shown in the Venn diagram above). These intersections are possible because the idea behind a ‘love story’ or maybe just ‘love’ is not restricted to what existed between Mehr and Firdaus. It disperses beyond these two characters and appears in the relationship between the siblings Hina and Zafraan, the love Zafraan has for music, the love for passions, the love for one’s country, the love between a human and an animal--Ms. Mishima here who’s a cat--and the insane love that comes as a twist. 

LOVE= { (Mehr, Firdaus), (Hina, Zafraan), (Zafraan, Music), (Person, Country), (Person, Passions), (Narrator, Ms. Mishima), (Major K, Ms. Mishima), (Disclosed person, Mehr)}

That’s how the set of Love in this story would look like, one where Mehr and Firdaus are just subsets and not the entire set itself. Gigoo has effectively stepped into the shoes of a woman while he writes as Mehr, a selfless woman who loves unconditionally. Gigoo pens down the feelings of a young girl here so profoundly that it is not hard to imagine that a female reader may find herself identifying completely with the character. 

Besides love, liminality stands as the overarching theme of the book. The story gives space to liminality on two major fronts: the demographic and the individualistic. The former is prevalent in the choice of Kashmir as the hometown of Firdaus. Kashmir marks a boundary for Firdaus, which has reality on one side and a hopeful end on the other. When seen in relevance to the political dilemma of choosing between the land of birth and the lover's land, Kashmir symbolises the tension in the strings that attach Mehr and Firdaus together. Moreover, it also signifies the authority of mere boundaries over religion itself. The individualistic liminality is depicted through Mehr’s character; there’s a thin boundary that develops from her role as a lover. From being a passionate lover ready to transgress all boundaries to attain love, she eventually ends up a loveless woman. As sensed through her letters, she expects to depart without having had the pleasure of being with her lover.                     

The form of writing in Mehr is a mix of letters, narratives, monologues, and dialogues. Although this helps Gigoo cover more expressions, it also leads to confusion, which a reader might find iresome to follow. Furthermore, his depth of  detail and dense phrasing makes reading heavy and monotonous. The plot twist doesn’t come as a shock and can pretty much be predicted in the middle of the book. Multiple excerpts have a typical Bollywood touch as evident in the dramatic praises for Mehr by her lover, Mehr’s dream-like world, and her appearance in a yellow saree in a temple. 

Overall, this might not be a book one would want to read over and over again but Gigoo’s attempt at showing major intersections with love, his experiment with various forms of writing, and most importantly his expressions as a female make this novel an entertaining one-time read.