Book Review – Amrita Suresh’s "When a Lawyer Falls in Love"

Amrita Suresh’s “When a Lawyer falls in Love” is an exquisite piece of hilarious fiction that reflects originality in experience, and truthfulness in expression, to unravel the intricacies that lie beneath human thought and action.

The writer seems to make capturous use of the layering technique, where-in the mind’s eye and maturity coincide with the layers of meaning to be expressed. On the visible layer, it is legal campus life, with law graduates-in-pairs are fixed in a ‘to be or not to be situation,’ with only one couple actually witnessing a real-life wedding, when Jaishree turns Jaishree Bose and ravishingly presents the charms of a Hindu married lady.

The writer quite graphically presents this “For the first time in her life perhaps, Jaishree Subramanian decided to openly assert herself in college. She came for the Farewell wearing sindoor and a mangalsutra. Even some of the guys in the class actually felt their jaws fall to the ground. Even some of the lecturers were shocked. Yet it was the final send off and Jaishree didn’t want to do any more hiding”.

The writer presents truthfully the concerns of man for woman’s love. Men as children are blessed by the comforts and warmth of the mother’s lap, and later in youth shown to be lost in gauging woman’s beauty, “Ankur remembered well, the first time his lawyer brain got enmeshed in Sonali’s freshly shampooed hair s she swayed with the gay abandon of a seventeen year old, during the Fresher’s party.”

A woman appears man’s sole concern for all generations to come. She becomes his breath and mind, the lone purpose in life, making life itself worth living. “She is actually the reason behind him actually maintaining a rank in class and not selling his law text books to a recycling unit, which Ankur every other day was tempted to do. Sonali Shah, in a word was his life”.

It is action that is celebrated over thought, with Souvik being declared a man of action and Jaishree garlanding him for a whole life ahead. Jaishree wants Souvik to take the first step, giving expression to the Indianness in an Indian lady allowing her to-be-partner to take the first step, inspite of being doubly sure of her boldness to do on her own. At the lake-side finally Jaishree gives Souvik the strength to spell out, before which he confirms

“Will you swim with me?” and then poses the question, a question that jittered the whole of man’s world, for the excitement or depression that follows, with her reply. Souvik pulls himself together, symbolically presented as “adjust his pants in an effort to kneel sit” and then Souvik quietly asks “the most beautiful girl in the world, will you marry me?”

If thesis is love at first sight, antithesis is coming close to one’s partner, but it is synthesis which as a marriage bonds couples for a life of joy and happiness. All the young legal couples, are shown rather anxiously graduating from thesis to antithesis and later to synthesis. If Jaishree and Souvik have been blessed to achieve synthesis, though “Ankur drove the nervous groom to his final”, Ankur is still to graduate, and the writer leaves it open for the readers to decide. Ankur, it appears still seems confused to choose between marriage as “Bossed over for the rest of his life” or “Sonali meanwhile, had different plans up her pretty sleeve. Having known her for over half a decade, Ankur have known.”

This indecision in Ankur is carved into Ankur’s words to Sonali “a woman’s love should never be trusted…since it has no empirical evidence to support it” and Sonali retorting “You ought to find yourself a guy then…” leaving “Ankur turn to be slightly ruffled” and this kit-pit appears to continue for long self-hurdling in escalation towards Synthesis. Indeed, the writer couldn’t have drawn a better comparison between the two young legal couples, Jaishrees and Sonalis.

The thesis of ‘graveyard’ love of Vyas, and his lover-girl Caroline’s desperation to reach out to him, rather begins with an ending note. The first chapter announces the death of love even before life actually took birth. This is rather humorously presented, with the criminology Professor Prakash questioning Vyas in the dark of the night “So you have already made plans of meeting in your after life.” He continues to faithfully laugh away at the youthful passion rather misplaced “I must say the stress levels of students has seeped through their heads. Imagine hanging out at a graveyard!”

The writer reflects on accepted belief, that life is full of suffering. As one grows older there is a realization of pain constant due to illness or disease. All make efforts at every age possible to be without pain, and to make fellow humans become free of pain. If we could choose to be without pain we certainly would. Souvik’s desperation to give relief to his ailing mother, through his marriage with Jayashree seems to be a cure from all illness that torments her.

By presenting Jaishree to Bose’s house-hold, Souvik considers giving it a new lease of life. He faithfully tries to return the care and happiness blessed on him by his mother all through. Jaishree for Souvik is the “Nibbanam paramam sukham”, meaning “Nirvana is the highest happiness” and Jaishree is sure to deliver this to her just kidney-transplanted mother-in-law. The announcement in the hospital “A match has been found” awakens Souvik to the realization that Jaishree’s coming to the hospital and later into his life will bring fresh rays of hope “Jaishree had come visiting for the fourth consecutive time.”

With her care and respect for elders Jaishree “touched the old man’s feet and vanished from the room” leaving Souvik to re-affirm himself of how much his mother needs Jaishree, with thoughts of “Jaishree was truly the sunshine of his life” occupying his mind, totally. Even before this, he firmly announces his wedlock with Jaishree, even if it meant upsetting his plans to go abroad. “Ma will approve of Jaishree…I know it.”

Astrology and obsession of common human lives to know what is in store for them in the future is very well captured all through the novel. The Leo Sonali sounds very assertive when she lectures her way through the importance of astrology. It really bugs her when Caroline rather sarcastically points out “it doesn’t make much sense, does it?…But how can one’s future depend on the movement of some star and moon and other such crap?” She starts “Astrology is based on bio-rhythmic cyles…Positive energy and Negative energy…has to come back to you.”

By saying that “everything depends on everything else” she confirms that it is focus that is really missing in many human lives, with every scope to create or negate one’s life, she says “the cosmic force has ordained, that if a person genuinely wants to make amends, circumstances are arranged to provide for evolution of the soul.” Change and diversion has to be met with consistency and focus.

Sonali wants Caroline-like beings to realize this fast, she says “The human body, as also the world, is in a constant state of flux. Therefore astrology in its truest form, involves going deep within through meditation, to uncover the answers that the soul already knows.” Finally there is a message for all “astrology is all about bringing out the best in a person. Since one’s future or career depends on doing something one is inherently good at. After all, most catastrophes are caused due to human failings.” This hints at the catastrophe of the love life of Caroline, to leave Vyas as cheated and wreaked, and also to lead a life in an alien land self-imprisoned in a self-imposed heartless marriage in times to come.

Astrology is also employed as an avenue to announce the ‘iceberg’ in us all. Caroline’s rather practical approach towards life, her deserting of Vyas for her Dubai cousin is very well prophesied through the medium of astrology. Sonali notes, “You can try doing some business of your own, working under someone won’t suit you…If you run a business it will be successful, since you have rather shrewd business skills.” Bringing the ‘profit motive’ into human lives and relationships is sure to make one materialistic and inhuman, finally to be isolated from people, near and dear, and Caroline is sure to meet her fate.

Sonali’s rather frustrated flirtation with Rohit, and his gross misbehavior, much to the anxiety and anger of helpless Ankur evokes neither laughter nor sorrow. The writer means to convey that, every individual is a slave of circumstances, which bury us many a time, before we are actually buried. It is not whether Sonali’s self-interests have served her internship, but what happens along the way is the causing of intense pain and anxiety in her undecided lover.

Starting from the day when “Sonali called Rohit to come sit next to her…For Ankur, the line between normal and abnormal had begun to blur. He could still be abnormally obsessed with feelings he had for the Sonali he once knew…A Paradox. That’s just what love was.” No doubt the middle classed Sonali might also have been carried away by the “farm house” charms of Rohit, where all play “Let’ play spin the bottle” game, prophesying Sonali’s life is sure to spin from Rohit to Ankur again.

The writer weaves the comic and hilarious intricately into the thick of the plot. Ankur questioning Vyas, as Vyas is busy searching for a gift amongst darkness ridden graves in the first chapter “What did she gift you…a space in this grave yard?” Pavan’s ambassador car which breaksdown at the slightest of movements appears to be a perpetual source of humour.

“The car groaning was under understandable, but the collective groans of the lawyers as they tumbled out of the car, was something that even the best mechanics couldn’t rectify.” Vyas’s annoyance on finding that Caroline has been moving closer to her cousin from Dubai evokes more humor than pity in the readers towards him.

On being advised to stop her from doing so, he complains his lost case “she says I am being stupid.” Legally Ankur is the most eligible bachelor to suit Sonali. But he is not sure of his singing abilities, rather humoursly he says “forget courtship, if he ever sang to his girl during their honeymoon, she’d make the lawyer himself draft divorce papers.”

Even little happenings and the fall-out can evoke laughter, this is what the writer aims to prove when Ankur’s teeth-focus is elaborated. Ankur “took good care of, it was teeth.

Infact as a six year old Ankur remembered holding a solemn burial ceremony each time he lost one of his milk teeth. A welcome party would follow, with the first traces of his new tooth. That’s why probably his teeth served him well, accentuating the smile on his chubby face.”

At the VJ hunt the comic is compounded by Ankur’s spontaneous replies triggered off by his “art of sounding intelligent while speaking nonsense.” For the female judge’s question “If you are invited for a pool party and you arrive wearing your swimming trunks only to realize it is a billiards game in progress, how would you react and why?” Ankur ventures further to erupt the party to cheers saying “I will pretend like it is my normal outfit… after all presence of mind is what counts the most in life.” The expected crowds’ cheers may be due to Ankur’s pool party outfit like mind, which exposes him dumb, or may be his outfitting to pose smart that ends in an expose of ignorance. Whatever, the end-result is rib-tickling laughter.

Pavan is a world apart. He is typically different from his fellow legal graduates. In one way he is ahead of the generations with whom he shares the same classroom. His humoruous narrative is sure to split all to laughter. “There was this one time when I was seated at a fancy restaurant next to a girl who ordered ‘fresh salted crabs,’ I was accompanying my dad for a business do and this girl was probably his boss’s daughter. Yet she was just so hot!! When her crab arrived, I thought I was being very smart when I said, “Wow! Even the crab still has his yes… probably he wanted to watch you all through dinner! That was it! The girl got delusional! She actually felt the crab was looking at her and probably that’s why she simply refused to look at both the crab and me…!!”

The man and woman relations in the Indian context are to be dominantly decided by the society. The young legal graduates naturally question this state of affairs. They look for an air of change, with Sonali laughingly says “After all a guy and girl alone on a terrace at dusk, is never a good sign!” The system of arranged marriage is debated “the most annoying thing about arranged marriages, thought Jaishree, everybody knew the precise reason for which everybody else was here, yet there was a forced facade of casualness.”

All through the novel, the writer’s concerns for trust in man-woman relations and for creation of a healthy and positive thinking in the tradition bound Indian society are expressive and evident. Before you convince your elders and society, convince yourself first. This is what the author seems to convey to the rather displaced-minded youth who wish to love, and marry the person of their choice. Many youngsters cannot do this, the resultant is failure in love and of marriage.

The secret to love’s marriage success is very well unraveled. If one partner fails, other should stand rescue by offering a helping hand, this is what sustains love, this is what sustains marriage, and this between couples is a blessing for children to have a happy and congenial home environment.

When Jayashree is confused about a marriage proposal, Souvik comes to her mental rescue says supportingly “Listen, I am not going to let them happen…you somehow put off the engagement for a year… we are getting married the first thing after college” that is it, she gets the focus, the inner strength to counter argue her father saying “Appa, I don’t want to get married now!” Finally the couples’ strength to stand together survives their relationship, and become one forever and ever. When your thought is right, you action is sure to yield the result.

Uniquely, this young writer presents the essential harmony of the mundane and metaphysical, by condemning all intellectual pride says, “Since those who make predictions, begin to believe they are celestial bodies themselves, given the amount of reverence they get. They forget that they are mere post men and that the letter has been drafted by the Highest Power there is. The very Power which has created the mosquito as also the mighty mountains.”

Amrita Suresh employs an idiom which is evidently expressive of her thoughts and beliefs. In addition to strict adherence with the common everyday expression of young legal graduates, she leaves no stone unturned in inventing altogether a new phraseology. This is clearly seen in the description of the Dean’s presentation, “IT’S LEGAL of course ‘kick start’ ed with a lengthy formal speech by the Dean, which the collective crowds wanted to ‘kick stop’…”

If the College Festival at AIU heralds the celebration of final year’s legal graduates’ college life, Bhoomika’s arrival brings in a wiff of fresh air, for the new graduates to start afresh as legal professionals. Bhoomika rather in a ridiculing tone of male’s ego says “A bulb is easy to fix… A male ego isn’t.” This leaves to the readers thought, that the legal graduates are sure to carry forward with unquestionable pride their irrational and age-old legal practices, giving no scope for creativity or modesty.

The writer sums-up the message even before eight chapters are still to be read, by saying “Ankur would be the best man. The legal and practical aspects that were tickling the lawyer’s conscience could be dealt with later.” The message is loud and clear. If life is an opportunity to better one’s self, indecision hurdles the process, overcoming which by focus and good efforts means happiness all the way.

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