Having authored two books (PUSHKAR, insight into the rural life of Rajasthan, and TEJ DHUP KA SAFAR, a collection of Hindi poetry), Vipin Behari Goyal now presents his first novel in English—TALL MAN, SMALL SHADOW. This novel is unique in its exploration of narrative voice. Through the use of multiple narrators, Goyal delivers a fascinating story from a variety of points of view that are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that the reader has to fit together in order to see the whole picture.
The primary narrator is Anupam. Appropriate to his personality, his name means “unparalled.” He believes, among other things, “It is good to pray even if you do not believe in God.” Anupam’s sanctuary, his place of meditation, is a park bench under his favorite tree, a jacaranda. His primary function in the novel is to coin existentialist philosophies for the day-to-day events that take place in his life, which centers on his wife, Sulekha, and their only child, Aalya.
Goyal also gives voice, at appropriate points in the novel, to some of the other characters. The philosophical issues explored in this novel are complex and challenging to the traditionally accepted social and religious beliefs of many cultures. However, the storyline has the simplicity of a fable, and it is this, if you will, “magically innocent” element of the story that enables the author to succeed in “suspending our disbelief” long enough to experience this enjoyable controversial novel.
Having survived a suicide attempt after losing the love of his life due to their star-crossed situation, Salil begins to pick up his life in his new home and finds he is falling in love with the small shadow of the lovely girl next door, Aalya, the daughter of Anupam and Sulekha. A
Ph.D. candidate researching “uneven” relationships in English literature, Aalya develops a bond with her thesis guide, Seema, an older childless woman married to Paul, a drama director.
Aalya and Seema become secret lovers, while Aalya falls in love with Salil and Seema continues to be faithfully married to Paul. A visit to a fertility clinic eventually results in Seema’s giving birth to twins, whose biological parents are Salil and Aalya. Paul consistently demonstrates complete faith in his wife and never questions the parentage of his twins, though he is well aware they cannot be his biologically.
Salil and Aalya eventually get married, and an untimely accident renders Salil incapable of fathering a child. However, the kindness they showed to Seema and Paul is about to come back on them. Salil and Aalya will soon find themselves rich in all that is most important in life, and Salil’s philosophy, “Gratitude is a way of reducing the importance of what somebody has done for you,” will give new meaning to the concept of “divine intervention.”
After we have come to know Aalya’s mother, Sulekha, for the majority of the novel from her husband’s point of view, she suddenly speaks directly to us as the narrator, and we get to know a very different woman from the bedridden asthmatic wife who is always drinking tea that Anupam has shown us. Sulekha emerges as the prime mover of the series of “coincidences” that occur leading up to the marriage of her beloved daughter. Sulekha is the one who bridges the gap between what is socially unacceptable and what is divinely possible in order to preserve her daughter’s long and happy life.
The author, Vipin Behari Goyal, holds the Degree in Law and Business Management and is the Chief Accounts Officer for the Government of Rajasthan in India. He has edited magazines in school and college, published articles in magazines and newspapers, recited articles and poetry on the air, and authored about a dozen pages on Wikipedia.
Goyal’s documentaries include Minus Minus Plus, Unspoiled Life, and Mines Are Mine, which was screened at a prestigious VIBGYOR event.
Forthcoming is Goyal’s second novel in English entitled MAYA IN SEARCH OF TANTRIC FATHER. It is the story of an American girl who comes to India in search of her biological father, who is a Tantric. The search takes her to exotic places and she explores the ethos of a culture hitherto unknown to her.
By--Dr. Rosa Maria DelVecchio