The world is slowly waking up to the importance of recognising mental health, yet it remains an issue when people are unable to get the help they need due to the stigma attached to it.
Shefali Tripathi’s Mehta’s new novel, with its intriguing title and offbeat cover, sheds light on the struggles faced by those who are ‘not all there’.
In a once grand, now down-at-its-heels South Delhi bungalow, lives Naina with her mother, sister, and the stigma that madness ‘runs in the family’. Having lost her grandparents who took them in after her father deserted them, the wellbeing of her family now rests on her young shoulders. When a woman’s face peeps in from the mists of her childhood memories, Naina sets out in search of the truth behind her father’s disappearance. Then, one day she receives a call that begins to unspool the past.
It is too much to ask of anyone to care for not one but two people solely dependent on you for every need. At some point it is bound to unravel you. Extended family and/or society rarely come forward, in such a situation, to help. Instead, unfortunately, they only judge you and add to your mountain of troubles.
People on our roof is a sensitive portrayal of a young girl’s relentless commitment to her family as she navigates her way in life and love amidst challenging relationships. Naina’s story touches upon themes of trauma and loss as she juggles all the balls in the air. It sheds light on people whose minds are wired differently and explores how the world treats them. Once she realises her inability to move forward stems from clutching onto her past, she decides to find out the truth and seek closure she has unknowingly longed for.
This was a heart-rending narrative and at one point I found it difficult to carry on, hit by the intensity of emotions it evokes. The movement in the narrative, especially that surrounding her mother, and sister—Tara, kept me hooked. In fact, the equation between the three had a lasting impact on me.
The book being set in the late 90’s, offers a chance to relive life in Delhi during that era, well before mobile phones and internet. As Naina looks back at her childhood in an effort to make sense of today, she reminisces about the good and bad. I felt the transition from the present to the past and back again was not as smooth as it could have been. I found myself getting lost in the timelines every now and then and had to re-read sections to make sense. Also, and this could be just me, the ending wasn’t very clear. The big picture resolution of the ‘after’ story made sense but the details were lost to me.
As a powerful and evocative coming-of-age story, this opens your heart and mind to understanding why mental health matters and how you can help. Most importantly, it does so without sounding preachy or melodramatic.
Book 5 of 2021.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟.
Available on Amazon*.
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