I Owed You One
Author: Madhu Vajpayee
Lifi Publications Pvt. Ltd
Rating: Four stars
Blood is thicker than water but the obligation is tricky and often whittle down to a personal call beyond a sense of anger, frustration, unrequited love in making us, humans. Author Dr. Madhu Vajpayee’s I Owed You One addresses the human complexities or frailties in human relationships set against the backdrop of Hindu-Muslim conflicts, lingering on our prejudices in making the characters vibrant while painting with a brush the layers in making us who we are or become.
The novel, Vajpayee’s I Owed You One explores the relationship between Dev Khanna and his mother, estranged tie with his father where a sense of betrayal is experienced as a young rebel. The author, in this slice of life novel, has explored, the ever-changing human relationships bearing a huge impact on the characters inter-connectedness to each other.
Madhu Vajpayee’s story takes off in Delhi where Dev becomes friends with Javed in the unlikeliest fashion and the ‘secret’ shared turns his life upside down. For instance, the ‘empathetic’ face-off between Dev and his mother, largely brings alive the emotions and touching the conditions of woman in our Indian society or ‘free love’. The mother-son exchange on relationships and destiny for that matter is subdued but carries a deeper meaning and treated significantly by the author throughout the narration. An incident leads to one thing and again another forming the crux of the story.
Since the author is based in Australia, she paints a vivid and visual image of life in Melbourne, the state of mind of Dev as a migrant whose life went upside down, friends, the global culture and the moment he meets Radhika. The dialogues are youthful in the narration embedded with the lingo, ‘Fobby’ catering to the young generation during the courtship, reflecting on the current times making the book a winner. Everything seems to be so perfect till Dev gets a mysterious letter from Saira, seeking his help. Dev has no choice but traveling back to India.
Set against the Hindu-Muslim conflict in Uttar Pradesh, Dev is hosted by the hospitable Goyal family who promises to help him in his search until a tragedy struck them. Dev is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea where he has to make another call, running the risk of straining the various relationships nurtured and even facing doubt from Radhika. The book sends a very strong signal on unity, the concept of a rainbow nation, prejudices nurtured against each other as human beings and how little religion matters when one is armed with good intentions.
I Owed You One is a contemporary book at a time where we have become very intolerant or takes offense at every small thing. Dr. Vajapayee’s effort must be commended in contributing to national unity, a gentle reminder of how racial bias should have no place in our society or blind hatred will lead us to nowhere.
The character Dev has streak of goodness inherited from his mother and ideologically fights for his values, putting every single thing at risk to help Saira. He is quite a conflicted character but very human and real who still nurtures an uneasiness with his father. The book keeps reminding us that at the end of the day, we need to be more understanding about people, the ‘guilt crime’ they indulge into and sometimes compassion doesn’t hurt when someone is longing for our love. Who knows? We may not get the last opportunity to open our hearts or listen to the other side of the story and unite in our pain or angst.
The climax in the story wields a surprise and the author Madhu Vajapayee’s story flows effortlessly that not once, the reader would get a hint about the end, which explains why the character obstinately pursues on the less traveled. route.
The story loosens the grip to a certain extent in the climax and more drama could have been injected to make the chase heart-pounding and thrilling. While Dr. Madhu Vajpayee has painted Dev as strong in his own way, more layers could have added in depicting the Melbourne romance and interaction with Saira, adding intensity to the story.
I Owed You One is a fresh book on the shelf and is a genuinely spun fiction offering a dose of realism in our ever-changing relationships, embedded to social and cultural norms surrounding lives. Dr. Madhu Vajpayee’s novel flows straight from the heart, a complete page turner that carries no monotonous moment, doesn’t get preachy yet it carries a very deep and profound message in today’s times.