Stars from the borderless sea


Book title – Stars from the borderless sea

Publisher –  Readomania      Pages – 247 pages   Language – English

Author – Shalini Mullick

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Review –

‘Stars from the Borderless Sea’ is the debut novel by writer Shalini Mullick. The book is a compilation of three stories (more like three novellas) that feature three strong women protagonists. The stories chronicle the lives of these women, their struggles, their fears and their relationships with those around them – both family and outside the family.

It is noteworthy that the characters of these women have been written with deftness and confidence. The arc is complete because the stories take a reader through those steps in the lives of the women that are at first hesitant, then become more surefooted and ultimately are path-breaking. All three stories span a lengthy period of time in the lives of the women and thus the resultant text is full of drama, emotions and feelings. It’s no surprise then that the text evokes strong feelings in the readers.

Another thing that I found noteworthy and which kind of ties the stories together like the ribbon of a bouquet is that in all three stories the instigating incident is a newspaper article/report/photograph. It is my inference that this was a deliberate act on the part of the writer to give all the stories a similar plane on which they could be judged. I may be wrong but, this act provides a reader with three flavourful dishes, all presented on the same platter and from which they can sample, compare and judge the offering. I loved this fact!

Coming to the three stories, it’s difficult for me to decide which one spoke more to my heart because there were aspects in all three that I liked. However, the tenet on which these stories are based remains the same for all – these are stories of love!

These are stories of the love found, lost, experienced, discarded, and much more. These are stories about things that society would most assuredly label a sin – extramarital affairs, passionate trysts with lovers, the breaking of marital vows, etc. But, the subjects have been handled, by Shalini, in an extremely mature and graceful manner. As you flip through the pages and strip away the layers that swathe the characters of these women, you cannot help but empathize with their plight. You cannot help but silently root for these women who are victims of circumstances. These are stories of the kind of love that does not need declarations or affirmations. It is quiet. It is sure. And, it is all-encompassing. It feels real and tangible even when the lovers are separated by geographical distances. It feels substantial and not hollow because its depth does not hinge on daily affirmations or physical proximity. The love in the book is the kind of love that spans a lifetime of longing. And that, for me, is the undoubted beauty of this book.

—–Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there——

The book is a breezy read with simple language and text that may be read by the mind but speaks to the heart. What I liked more than the dialogues are the tags attached to them and the sentences after the dialogues. For me, the stories moved forward more in those than they did in the dialogues alone. There are places where Shalini seemingly takes a pause in her story and poses a reflective question. Although the question is part of the story, the reader would not be faulted for thinking that the question was posed to them with an intention of making them feel like a part of the story. That was the second thing that I loved.

The first story – ‘Sayonee’ (meaning soulmate) opens with beautiful lines by Rumi – Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They are in each other, all along.

Sayonee is the story of Geetika and Shekhar, two people from different economic strata who can never walk a common path. Their lives collide only for their paths to diverge. Written in an epistolary style, this story moves forward in the sensitive, gentle letters that Geetika reads. The disclosures take the reader through Geetika’s past, her family, her marriage and obligations, her trials and tribulations, her heartbreak, her discontent and ultimately lead to the brilliance with which she shines after being honed in the aforementioned fires.

…And then, she stepped out into the night taking the soft embers of the fireplace, the shimmering moonlight and their silence with her…

This story spans decades to end on a sweet note that makes a person believe in the bitter-sweet pangs of love, all over again. This is a tale of one woman’s sacrifice because of which every relationship in her life is enriched.  Isn’t that what all women are about? Aren’t they the paragons of selfless service?

The second story, ‘Humsafar’ (meaning companion) opens with this line by Rumi – Love is the bridge between you and everything.

Humsafar is the story of Rachana, Venkat and Rajat. No, it is not a love triangle. But, it is definitely a story that oscillates between the past and the present to give a reader snatches of the lives that the protagonists have lived and are living. This story has betrayal and it would be easy to take the moral high ground and pass judgement on the actions depicted but for the sensitive manner in which Shalini navigates the treacherous lanes of these relationships. She does not tell the reader why Rachana is justified; instead, she lets them come to that conclusion by themselves by letting them sink into the web of complex emotions that she creates. This is a story about love, disappointments, betrayal and the crushing effect that one man’s guilt can have on the lives of those that he loves.

The third and last story, ‘Humraaz’ (meaning confidant), opens with yet another line by Rumi – Wherever you are, and whatever you do, be in love.

Humraaz is the story of two souls – Mahima and Sanjay – thrust together by fate. Both battle their own demons. Both are at odds with their respective lives. Both are thirsting for something that they know is well out of their reach. Yet, when their paths cross, in the banalest of manners, they gradually gravitate towards each other. But, theirs is not a passionate awakening of love. Theirs is a gradual revelation to love such as is experienced between soul mates. These two souls deal with their attraction in a mature, sophisticated manner that is respectful. Theirs is not the giddy romance of youth. Theirs is a mature realization of it and they both delight in each others’ company throughout the entirety of their life. They don’t need each other to complete them. They are both complete by virtue of the fact that the other is in their lives, in whatever part or capacity. Theirs is the kind of love that makes one sigh. It evokes a fierce longing and makes one think – if only I was loved like this…

There is drama in this story. But, there is also a sense of quiet relief. Sometimes things don’t need to end for an end to be understood. Sometimes, the end can be inferred quietly and in solitude, like the emotions that are in the story.

All in all, I found myself reading through the book at a sedate pace. I found myself pausing often and reflecting on the emotions that the writer evokes because I found myself thinking about the lives of all those women who I have met in my life.  Would their stories be any different? Did I know a Geetika, Rachana or Mahima? Pick this book up if you are looking to dip your soul into a sea of emotions.

About Sonal Singh

I believe that life is a repertoire of anecdotes. The various situations that we encounter, the many incidents of every day, the people we meet, our conversations with them; all make life a melange of tales. And, that is what I attempt to capture through my writing. My cooking is no different! It reflects my love for travel and my love for innovation. The kitchen is my happy place. So, even though by vocation I am a recruiter (, by passion I am a writer, home chef and a hodophile.

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