Life Is What You Make It by Preeti Shenoy
“There is only a fine line between sanity and insanity. Who is to decide that someone is insane and others are ‘normal?’ If somebody does not conform to set norms of behaviour, the society terms them as eccentric, odd, mad and crazy. Is it really fair?”
Books have moved me, touched me. Some I have found soothing, still others challenging. ‘Life is What You Make It’ is none of the above. It is plain ‘gripping.’
The Prologue is interesting. It gives you an insight into what the novel is actually about. The mind of a person deeply affected by trauma, hurt, frustration and desperation is very sensitively portrayed making the reader wanting to know more.
The entire novel becomes a flashback in time, into the past of a lively young college girl, full of life, carefree-careless wanting to have the best. Most of us will identify with the similar emotions expressed in various situations by the protagonist Ankita Sharma. Those little desires, infatuations, ‘raging hormones’ as Preeti tends to call them and the hope nay, will to conquer the world – all are feelings that would make the reader wonder, ‘Hey, I feel/felt that way too!’
“The sound of a grown-up man crying is one of the loneliest, saddest sounds I have ever heard.”
“…Never belittle love, no matter where it came from and to be a little humbler, nicer and kinder with my words and actions.”
are some of my favourite lines in the book.
The chapter describing the College Culturals made me remember all the fun times that I had in college! Ankita’s relationship with Abhi makes one dwell on that particular stage in life when one is unsure about intimate emotions like love and making love. While for some a wee bit of flattery or flirting would do, for many others going all the way is done just to take that sip of ‘adult’ life. Here, I must compliment Preeti for bringing out the conflicts out in the open very deftly.
But then, the novel races too fast. College life, fun, academics, love, career aspirations – all just rush through as if they were racing for a prize that never seems to come. Ankita gets what she wants and just as easily discards whatever comes in her path of moving ahead leaving behind friendship and love. I suppose many of us are guilty of this trait but the jump from innocent, vulnerable to indifferent, carefully calculated ambitious path seems to come too fast too easily in the novel. And the degradation of a lovely mind is somewhat like a burning jet gliding downwards at great uncontrollable speed. There have been times when I just wanted to stop reading. It was the desire to know how the author would conclude the plot that edged me on.
Much as I wished the novel did not fly so fast, much as I wished that the novel did not leave me feeling unsettled and oh! so down in the dumps, I do appreciate the author’s courageous attempt at writing a story that needs to be told to the world. Bipolar disorder is not something many people know about, an illness which tends to affect youngsters between adolescence and early adulthood, which the protagonist Ankita suffers from in the novel. ‘Mental health issues’ are generally not discussed openly in Indian society causing more damage to the patient and his/her family.
The novel, “Life Is What You Make It’ is a valiant effort to highlight this reality.