Sharanya Misra

Aashi is a book that raises some very pertinent questions through its plot about the lives women lead, constantly struggling to find the equilibrium that could make everyone happy. But is their own happiness even part of that equation?

Aashi. Gentle, like a mild breeze. Yet fierce, like a gust of cyclonic wind threatening to sweep everything away. Smart, practical and Independent. But naive and impulsive, all at once. Aashi, facing the world with a stony resolve, masking the stirrings of doubts within. If you think Maitabi’s Aashi is an enigma, wait till you meet Abir. Abir. Even his name rolls off your tongue with a carefully constructed sense of confidence. The man who charms you with his brilliant mind and his silent persona. Like that still water in a serene countryside setting, that hypnotises you into a sense of wellbeing. Except, you never know the depths it hides. Aashi and Abir. This is their story. Together, and away.
Aashi is a young journalist with an eye for the stars. Fiercely determined to shine, she is consumed by her work. She is all set to marry Kaushik, keen to leave her past behind, a pragmatic decision she would rather not be emotionally invested in. But when Kaushik and Aashi must move to the USA post marriage, emotions buried deep within begin to peek out, making her question herself and her priorities. Amidst all this, the one frequent name on Aashi’s mind is the one she desperately doesn’t want to remember – Abir.
Maitabi Banerjee’s book has hit the mark with her compelling characterisations. Nuanced, and so very evocative. She draws you into their world, their emotions and their stories and takes you on a whirlwind ride.
Aashi’s struggles post marriage to find and establish her identity are what won my heart.  Her story would probably resonate with many Indian women who give up their careers and lives to join their husbands abroad, settling in as homemakers, oftentimes stowing their dreams away for good. What does it feel like to not be given a choice? To be ripped out of a movie you are a lead in and dropped into another as a supporting actor at best? How do you decide what is more important – the dreams you nurtured or the vows you promised to keep? Do you accept things as they are no matter how you feel? Do you quit altogether? Couldn’t there be a middle ground, and if there was, would it be worth it?
Women in India are often made to feel guilty for prioritising their careers. They are expected to blend into their husbands’ lives and homes. But who is to decide which career and which life is of more value? And what is this value to be weighed against? Money…designation…satisfaction? Aashi is a book that raises some very pertinent questions through its plot about the lives women lead, constantly struggling to find the equilibrium that could make everyone happy. But is their own happiness even part of that equation?
Will Abir re-enter Aashi’s life? Will Aashi ever make her way back to her passion, her work? And what of Kaushik? These are some of the questions the author lets you ponder upon with every page you turn.
The story is simple without being simplistic. Aashi and Abir’s love story is real. It is so much more than romance. It is about finding inspiration in one another, about unending talks on rainy nights and keen discussions on matters of the world. It is about making room for one another and about imbibing some part of them into you. It is about shared passions, understanding and partnership, that stands the test of time.
Maitabi Banerjee’s unique style of writing screams of constrained emotions, ever so expressive without actually giving much away, a skill that I admire in a writer. I personally gave in to screaming at several points where I would rather have had Aashi reacting drastically! But Maitabi’s unassuming, gentle writing conveys thoughts without being loud about it.
Aashi is a beautiful book that left me wanting for more. The book’s cover design is gorgeous and somehow immediately reminded me of Jhumpa Lahiri’s works. If there was one thing I could change about it, it would have to be the ending! The plot was so serenely straightforward that a dramatic twist for a climax left me upset. But that does also show how invested I was emotionally with it. Either way, the ending definitely left me sincerely hoping for a sequel!
Maitabi Banerjee’s debut novel is a winner in my opinion. Read it yourself to find out. Grab it here on Amazon!

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