"Like A Bird on the Wire" ("Like a Bird on the Wire")
Author :
Mrs Chhavi Bharadwaj IAS
Category :
Romance - Fiction
Publisher :
Available On :
Amazon India and Flipkart
Quote By Author :
Publish Date :

Review :

Chhavi Bhardwaj, a true-blue “pahari,” who loves trekking, tea and music, is an IAS officer. Currently, she is posted in Jabalpur, as Collector. She was born in Uttarakhand. After completing her studies in electronic and communications engineering, she joined Indian Administrative Service, ten years ago. She is now in her early thirties, and she began her third decade with her first book, “Like a Bird on the Wire.”
It’s a fiction of 317 pages. The novel has a lucid narrative style that oscillates between past and present. There are many reasons that make this novel different. Firstly, the plot is set around the life of the IAS officers and people associated with them, be it relation, or work-wise. The pinch here is that all of it is actually blended with a romantic story. If we explain it geometrically, then there’s a love line connecting two dots (i.e. two main characters of the love story: Nethra Kaul and Avinash Rathore), as the story progresses, you will realize that there’s actually a love triangle which breathes within. And, what breathes in between the lines, is a partially formed and unformed love square and pentagon, even (had Nethra been interested in Mrityunjay the same way or had given Amit, a chance). 
Secondly, the novel has an honest tone, which gives an impression that the author has literally bared her heart out in leaving no stones unturned for explaining the nitty-gritties of the set up, characters, situations, etc. You’ll find it in the author’s ways of explaining and language, which has a lot of “Hinglish” and “Hindi-influenced” phrases even like “maal maam,” “Humara GL kaisa ho..,” “patta,” among others. To add to this, there are colloquial words and phrases too like “Avinash-Rathore-sort-of-reply,” “how-to-stop-sulking-and-start-living',” “no how-have-you-beens, etc.” And, this further makes the entire story look more real. It relates well with people.
Thirdly, this is fiction, and yet not a fiction. Yes, the meticulous design of the plot weaved with the story would constantly prick you, leading you to think that its someone’s story written with different names, and some slight changes in the backdrop. It sounds that real!
Fourthly, the author is highly creative, especially in shaping a character. Citing one example: in the chapter, “Harmony Regained…,” the author explains the character of M.B. (Madhuparna Baruah), who had met Nethra seven years ago from 2015, at one of the elite relics of Dehradun i.e. EBD bookstore. Nethra calls her “ageing Cleopatra”. The chapter begins with M.B. daydreaming and stitching a story of a teenager girl running away from her home. She was imaginative. Author explains M.B.’s creative abilities, this way:
“Her head was this unruly creature spinning fantastic yarns in strange contexts. In her queer imagination, scenes and situations, dialogues and conversations would spring up from apparently nowhere and delight her into smile. As a compulsive daydreaming teenager, she had often wondered if she was all right, mentally. Now, at fifty-eight, she had made peace with her mind and the daydreaming flowed naturally, without any guilt-ridden hangovers.”
Throughout the story, Avinash is described as a clean IAS officer. It is evident in various parts including the first part, “Nethra Kaul”. There is a situation of having a big breakthrough in the government, which is about a bog data analytics. This project needed an administrator, who’s not just an engineer or manager. After three months of churning of candidate selection, “three probables were listed for the job. The one who came out the cleanest, as also, the ‘junior-most’ was Avinash Rathore.” This is found in different parts too, in different contexts.
Of course, there is always a glimpse of author’s personality in it. For example, author loves trekking and exploring places, as mentioned in the beginning (now, you must be realizing why it was mentioned in the introductory paragraph).  And, the details of mountain trekking, trek group (like Trek Group No. 7) and more can be read in “The Himalayan Trek” of  “The Academy” section. Moreover, Nethra and the author are in their early 30’s. Reflections can be seen in the novel in bits and pieces.
There is an array of other reasons why this novel is unique. You must be wondering with curiosity, what the story is exactly about. We wouldn’t tell you the entire story in the review, as for you to get the book and read it; however, we will surely drop many hints more as to what the story is like, and why you should read it.
The story begins with, “…It had been seven years he had last heard from her. Seven years! And though a part of him was relieved, even happy; the other part was already ruminating on the pun- the subliminal implications of that terse ‘hard work paying off.’ Was is relief?
He couldn’t put a finger on that flustered him all the more..because even today, seven bloody years down, nothing, nothing could affect him the way she did.”
Its an eight-part story. Part One is “Nethra Kaul”. Nethra Kaul is sharp, efficient, beautiful and single. A quintessential “good girl”, she believes in doing the ‘right thing’, always. Only, her life isn’t all that right. A broken heart? Check. Misfit at work? Double-check. Hopeless romanticism? Not enough checks in the world! She has a large heart that accepts defeat and gain equally.  She has braved 30s without being married, but being (tele) lectured by her aunt “how-to-stop-sulking-and-start-living tele-lecture from her aunt, best friend and batch mate Madhavi, who in keeping with the great tradition of all agony aunts, had for the nth time, explained how 'it was only passing through pain that one could hope to reach anywhere.”
She is, typically, a progressive Indian girl, who dares to dream despite many hiccups. And, when she sees Avinash Rathore’s photo on the front page of the newspaper for receiving ‘PM’s Excellence Award’ on Civil Services Day, she thinks, “Bad start to a bad day.” Although, her heart throbs and burns with pain and anxiety.
On the other hand, we have Avinash Rathore, who is also the topic of Part Three, specifically, though he’s discussed about throughout. Avinash Rathore is Nethra’s batch mate from the IAS. He is the one, she had loved and wanted to spend her life with. Avinash is a high-flyer, idealistic, and his life looks picture perfect at the moment. Oh, by the way, he is married and has a three-year-old daughter too. Part Eight is “Malvika Rathore”, trophy wife of Avinash and the mother of Ananya. She is 5’8” tall fashion designer who chose marriage over career, and is immensely beautiful and attractive almost like, “an haute couture model,” so Nethra wondered why would Avinash look at the “awfully bored Madam Collector”? 
Avinash looked at Nethra. And, the destiny made it happen. Avinash and Nethra meet again and again. Once during a party. In fact, Avinash ends up writing a four or five-page-long letter addressed to Nethra Kaul, during the party night by excusing himself on the “pretext of some unavoidable work in his Bungalow Office.”   
What was so explicable that he could elaborately write, but not speak directly about it to her? Wife, kids, success and family life, what could he have wanted from life?
He is, literally, tossed between the wants set by his mind and the desires of his heart. He is unable to choose between the two, but why he landed up in that state, was it only because of stumbling upon Nethra after so many years and having an eye contact, or not being able to have an eye contact? Or was it something else deep down in his heart?
Hold on, symbolically though, you would notice that between Nethra (part one) and Avinash (part three), is the unpretentious Mrityunjay Ranjan as the topic of Part Two, and also as a part of the triangle or square, call it whatever you want.
“Why don’t you count me in? he laughed
She gave him a breezy, don’t-you-say-that smile”
Immediately, Mrityunjay patched up saying, “I was kidding,” and regretting it immediately. “Seven years ago, during their only serious exchange, he had told her that whenever you said you were just kidding;' you actually meant every word of what you had said. In any case, Mrityunjay Ranjan was one of those people who always meant every word of what they said. That was his problem. Pretence was just not his thing.
She had noticed this too, because she was trying to change the subject now. 'Was this William Faulkner?' she asked.
'Yes...you are always right,' he sighed. 
'And don't bring that up,' she said, without looking at him.
'What, Faulkner?' he asked.
'No, love’ she answered”
Here, Nethra mentions avoiding and hence, rejecting love intentions with Mrityunjay, and on the other hand, she was denied for love relations by Avinash. But fate brings them all face-to-face, especially the both the “no-sayers” (Nethra & Avinash). What is going to be now, enticing or disastrous? 
Mrityunjay feels void from within, as he explains, “Of course, it is the whole big world minus myself”. He sounds tired and frustrated when he says, “I have had it, Nethra. I cannot be the amoral salesman anymore, the seller of glorious dreams...All my life I have tried to avoid being the desperate salesman and all my life, I have been told that that is what the race is for-I cannot join this rat race..”
Moreover, “Avinash and Mrityunjay had once been close, very close. had drifted apart now. Avinash disapproved of Mrityunjay’s ways, attributing a large part of his eccentricity at work to a of imperious narcissism that had no takers in government, disliked what he called Avinash's selfish purposiveness- some referred to as a leitmotif that played across all aspects of Avinash’s life.”
The story peps up the y-generation spirit by also talking of “Game of Thrones”, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “One Direction,” Deepika Padukone’s Kurta-palazzos combo, “Comedy Nights with Kapil”, and so on. It also throws light on the trendsetter, OMG, a 24x7 news channel run by one the largest mass media companies in India, and the materialistic character, Amit Bhargava. For Amit, his friends were “vital inventory resources,” starting from Bacardi Rum/ Smirn Off/ Johnie Walker Scotch to free-dining in seven star hotels, and paid holidays. He is a true opportunist. But what is he doing here in the story? Why was Nethra staying aloof from him despite of being engaged to him? They’re engaged yet she doesn’t want Amit in her life, and doesn’t want to share physical intimacy with him, even. She believes in sanctity of a relation, yet at the same time, she knows what not to do, and do when necessary. With so many twists and turns going around, will Nethra and Avinash come close and get into relation? Will they express their feelings? If so happens, what will happen to Nethra’s fiance, and most importantly, to Avinash’s family? Will any of these birds, rest in their nest finally, rather than being on the wire?  To get answers to all your questions, you have to read this heart-warming novel by Chhavi Bharadwaj.

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