Book Review: ‘When Padma Bani Paula’ by Anupama Jain


When have we been satisfied with what we have? Isn’t that a truth, that as unsatisfied souls, we all look out for those pocket of desires which look far fetched. Those, which look more glitzy and glamorous than our own life. Appear more sumptuous than our own harmonised habitats. We all do. Some subtly, and some as go getters. ‘When Padma Bani Paula’ by debutant Anupama Jain revolves around this facet of life, which cajoles you to think- ‘is life worth everything that we envisage or perhaps do.’ ‘Padma Bani Paula’ is Jain’s first thrust with a full length novel. Published by Readomania, it is a heartfelt and amusing read duly sprinkled by various ways and bends of life that makes you laugh, shed some copious tears and also feel bemused by life and its audacities. In simples words, this story serves you a slice of life, unabashed.

Synopsis: ‘When Padma Bani Paula’ is a simple yet engrossing story about an unassuming middle class girl with lofty aspiration. Padma belonged to a simple south Indian family with hugely traditional values, which of course she didn’t resign to. She dreamt of a bigger and sassy life for herself and went out all the way to achieve it. But, then, everything comes with a price. And, moreover what looks greener and merrier through the vision of youth, may not always be the gravel to stand on, firmly. Right? Life throws surprises. Some good and some hugely ugly. How does Padma becomes Paula? Does she get any closer to her chosen dreams? Does she finally stands confirmed with her ideas of success, failure, love and life? Does she finally reaches the end where she hoped to belong on a fair day? ‘When Padma Bani Paula’ is all about this journey that takes us through various interesting curves through the lenses of a girl, who could conveniently be any one of us, on any day.

Narration: Interesting. The author chose an interesting way to partition her narrative. With twenty six chapters divided into each chapter after the English alphabets, it lends a newness that was never seen before. The narration flows effortlessly with requisite stopping over and dwellings on the characters, events and emotions, bit by bit. The flow is well measured. It is seamless. And at the same time, it gives you a fair idea of the time and people it is dealing with. The narrative conforms and adopts the basic texture of the story well. And so, the habitats, people and emotions come out as real and relatable as much possible, making it a telling tale. Very well crafted indeed.

Characters: You don’t miss out on anything here. Whether it is the father, mother, friends in the college or the colleagues in the office. Did I mention the maid? They are all there around you. We have seen, met and touched them umpteen times, and knew them well enough to even guess what they might be saying or doing the next. You actually can feel them animating in front of your eyes, when you read the lines in the book ! Extremely well designed and sculpted characterisation by the author.

Language: I have been following Jain’s work for quite some time now. And, if there is anything that’s drool-worthy in the way she concocts her pieces, it is her dexterity with the language. So, I wasn’t surprised when her debut work was sprinkled with her deftness with words. She did it efficaciously. Whether it was wit, sarcasm, sadness, anger or a moment of fleeting romance, she made it delectable. You would like to re-read for the sheer pleasure of reading, and just that. She wrote wearing her heart on her sleeves. And, so every scene she carved, she brought out her choicest wealth of vocabulary to get the emotions flowing. I feel, I am a bit inapt in putting across what a pleasure it is to read the language that the author churns out. It is pure love !!

Editing: ‘When Padma Bani Paula’ is a classic example of what happens, when the author’s and the editor’s mind mate each other rather fluently. It seemed that the author and the editor were tending the same flowers of the garden with almost the same spade and chisel, at the same time. Crisp, to the point, tight and well weighed narrative is what the editor has lent to this piece of work. There is nothing lose or untouched. There is never a moment that slumps because of sloppy edits. It is just right, on the spot. I will not hold back, but say it aloud that this by far one of the best edited works from the house of Readomania. Take a bow !

What could have been better?

Well, precisely two things:

  1. In the first half, I wish the author had deliberated a little more on the mind of the protagonist, Padma. I somehow felt the focus was more outward paraphernalia than it was inwards. Some standing moments on her own self introspection as an adolescent would have lent a better depth to the character, which was in abundance in the second half.
  2. As far as I know of Jain’s acumen with manoeuvring the plot, she is someone who is capable in bringing in some stupefied twists to her tales. As I turned the pages, I waited for them, but the surprises that came by were predictable. I missed Jain’s touch in such junctures and was left parched. I wish she had a bit more here. The much expected twist in the tale never came by.

‘When Padma Bani Paula’ is a light hearted breezy read. Grab it to have a glimpse of yourself through the words and visions of the author. This is a story that carries with it a piece of each one of us in some way or the other. A good story duly wrapped in good humour and enticing language, is something that should not be missed. Anupama Jain, take a bow, you nailed it with a heartwarming debut !!