Doubt has pivoted many a relationship across the centuries. Whether it is Othello suspicious of Desdemona or through the rise of paranoia as a trope in twentieth century writings. While paranoia naturally suggests the vulnerability of individual mind to social rhetoric, it is also the space for deep interrogation of the individual that renders him/her to paranoia. This novel presents that doubt has the potential to be a space of liberation.
Madeeha works in Jordan to rehabilitate Syrian refugees. Zehen, a political analyst from India, meets her in the US during their social impact program. He is intrigued and charmed by her, and falls deeply in love. But the world political climate, with its accompanying cultural narratives about terror and pain, infects Zehen’s mind. Zehen begins to suspect Madeeha as a possible mujahid. Will he find his truth? Fear doesn’t devastate; it stirs the inner pot.
The novel uses Sufi philosophical terms to mark the journey to self-love and explores the tensions between Ishq-e- Mazizi (worldly love) and Ishq-e- Haqiqi (love for Divine). The novel uses the backdrops of various cities around the world to build its narratives – Cusco and Lima in Peru, Petra/Aqaba/Amman/Jerash in Jordan, New York/Philadelphia/DC/Chicago/Seattle/San Francisco. The cultures within each of these cities inform and influence the story so that each city becomes a character themselves participating in empowerment and liberation of the main protagonist.
It is a tender love story that triumphs heartbreaks and sets the foundation of deep lasting future relationships – a delightful emancipation from social intrigues and cultural constraints.
Zehen was experiencing sweet joy in his heart. Memories bustled in the head. When did he first see her? Zehen searched his head madly. Orientation session? Corridor to the classroom? However, he tried, he couldn’t pinpoint the moment. A whirr of images, of moments, yet-to- be collaged. And a heart that already had a narrative, waiting to be inset.
We imagine that all romantic stories will have a sigh-worthy romantic beginning. But beginnings are when the heart awakens, when the soul remembers. A presence stills and emerges from the shadows of time.
His first memory was when she introduced herself in the class. They had gathered at Presidium University for a one-year course on Social Impact Leadership. Outside, the white fringe tree was laden with its grape-like fruits. The pine, oak and spruce waited for winter to tell the world how unchangeable they were. And the old Redwood stood proud like the institution itself. Inside, in the warm classroom, students from various cultures across the world had gathered. Icebreaker session was on and the usual round of introductions.
Introduction is a ritual. A cumbersome ritual. How does one reduce the tapestry of one’s entire existence, the colors, and the many weaves into a single palatable thread?
My Review of Lean Into Relationships
Relationships are strange; no two of them are alike.
Zehen, the protagonist and his relationships form the crux of the plot. It is Zehen’s intensive journey that he undertakes to get over the heartbreak over his breakup with Madeeha.
Unlike its name, this book is not about rosy romances, but more of introspection into the protagonist’s soul and how he picks up the strings of his life after a failed relationship. Somewhere the book feels very Eat Pray Love-ish, but somehow they differed on the charm quotient and the Eat was replaced by Zehen’s travels.
The narration is steady and the use of language is such that it doesn’t confuse the reader, nor is there any twisted suspense in the plot. This book is an example of how travel can widen your horizons and help you think beyond yourself yet make you think in a manner you have never done before. While reading we come across Zehen looking inwards, many a time the reader too is tempted to follow suit and do some introspection.
I would say that this book stands somewhere in the middle of being a fiction and a self-help book.
About the author
I was born into poverty. At the time of my birth, my parents shared a one -room hut with six other family members in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Delhi.
It was a hot day in the month of March 1995. I was in standard 4th and had an examination the following day. As was regular in that locality, we didn’t have electricity that day. I couldn’t study or sleep properly. One of the watershed moments happened when I came back from school the next day. We had an inverter installed at home. I knew we couldn’t afford an inverter. But my dad was always convinced that the way out of poverty for our family is through education.
Despite an interest in creative writing, I chose to study a subject that society values more – Finance. Later, I got into one of the top colleges for finance in the country. My first salary out of college (in 2007, when I was 20 years old) was higher than that of my dad’s salary at the time.
When I was 24 years old, I had everything that makes one happy – loving parents, great partner, close-knit group of friends, and career path that exceeded every goal. Yet, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad either; but it never felt like my life. I had carefully and meticulously built that life though. Contextually, it was the safe thing to do.
Following year though, I had to deal with the loss of my 7¬year old relationship and of my 5¬year old job. My identity was crushed. My biggest lesson was that you can fail at what you don’t want, and what you consider safe; you might as well take a chance at what you truly want.
Next year, I got my ‘ideal’ job but walked away from it. Failure had taught me to be more ambitious and audacious. I had reached a point in my life where I wanted my work to have more meaning; and to stand for something more important than myself.
I started a political consulting company to maneuver social ascendance of marginalized communities by equalizing access to political capital. I primarily did topical research for MPs for their debates in the parliament and on TV shows. Partial project list includes:
• Providing 108 rape survivors with medical, legal, financial, and social support over six months through one of my client’s NGO
• Getting amendments passed in the communal violence bill that tackle systemic bias towards Muslims
• Helping three social entrepreneurs raise a combined total of INR 43 lakhs from their MP for community initiatives
Along with running my own company, I focused on my passion for writing and traveling as well. I solo travelled to all seven wonders of the world, and did two-cross country trips by train in India and in the US. I have also written and published three fiction novels.
Writing to me is therapy, it frightens and comforts at the same time. Liberates like nothing else. A book in my own name is a dream, but a bigger dream would be to write something that haunts the reader even after the last page is turned and the book is shut. I enjoy reading and music, spending time with family whilst battling my social awkwardness.
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