Rating: 4/5 stars
Author Amit Sharma’s book, False Ceilings, I have to admit, is a pleasant surprise in terms of how strongly it makes you feel nostalgic and want to go back to reading history as soon as possible. The summary at the back of the book provides a certain level of intrigue that is added to by the muted impressiveness of the front cover.
False Ceilings starts off with a slight hint at the reality of the education system in India, though you cannot help but wonder about how much of it is relevant, according to the gist. But the book twists and turns through Dalhousie and Shimla during different times and gives you excellent descriptions of the scenic beauty that is an innate property of these hill stations. It then graduates to the metropolis of Delhi, showing it in its varied changing timelines.
The story, though a little too unnecessarily descriptive in its earlier pages, turns into one that you simply cannot put down. You just start craving for more at one point. False Ceilings captures human emotions with an ease and diligence that is astounding in its own little myriad ways. I loved the fact that author Amit Sharma has mixed and blended the stories and timelines so well that it is easy to read despite being so disparate.
Author Amit Sharma has packed in quite a few punches in this 256-page novel that prick your heart in more ways than one:
The mindsets of different generations in times when the fear of giving birth to a girl child was stronger than the pride of becoming a mother is shown in sharp contrast.
Unexpected progressiveness in a time that did not encourage it much, and that seems so out of place yet so natural, evokes a pride that is hard to let go of as you read. It is heartening to see how we have changed since then, but it also pricks since we still have those prejudices rooted in places where we cannot reach.
It is obvious that the book required quite a bit of research and it is also obvious as to how well the research has been done and the results of the research implemented. Amit Sharma includes everything about the Indian Independence Struggle and its aftermath perfectly into the story. Every character’s story in the book fills you with an angst and pain that comes with a sense of identification.
The characters are shaped and molded extremely well. When a character feels disdain, it spills over to you. When a character feels joy, you’re joyous too. When a character is pained, you hurt too. Character sketching, being one of the most important parts of a story, is done brilliantly and heart-wrenchingly well. False Ceilings has the power to make you cringe, make you identify with it, and make you feel just a tad bit wistful. That sense of identification is filled to the brim.
The author has littered the book with a few gems that I couldn’t help but list out here:
“No one but us will know this moment, that we sat here like this and saw the sun fade away and then one day, this moment will be lost with both of us. There will be no one left to tell our story.”
“But it is our moment, our sunset.”
“We are animals. We just need a chance. We are like werewolves. We wait for the moon of hatred.”
“Sometimes the futility of it all drives me crazy. It’s so mind-bogglingly brainless. We are on this tiny speck of soil and dirt which we call Earth, which won’t even register anywhere in vastness if you start comparing it with the other objects in the universe and our existence is such a paltry blip on it, just like a blink of an eye. And, even though, all you have to do is to look at the sky to be reminded of your being so minuscule and your existence to be so worthless, we still have the nerve to make each other’s lives miserable.”
“It was one of those moments when the present is such a far cry from the past that one begins to wonder if the past actually existed.”
“If she had to tell her story to anyone, people would chuckle at her. She did not beat you up, she did not throw acid on you, she did not burn you by pouring kerosene on you while you were asleep, they would say. What are you complaining about then? But she was not blowing it out of proportion. Why does it always have to be something physical? Why does someone have to strike you or burn you for people to sympathize with you? Is it because the truth is stark only with a proof? There has to be a mark on the body, a bruise, for someone to sympathize? Otherwise it’s just manipulated and exaggerated sentences?”
The only complaint that I have with False Ceilings is that it comes off as a slightly jarred narrative when it comes to sentence construction. But what it contains less of in this section, it more than makes up for in the plot and character sketches. Not that the sentence construction is bad, but it could definitely have been better. False Ceilings has a number of characters, well-sketched and well-written, whose paths cross often. But in the end, when you look at the larger picture, it all suddenly makes so much more sense.
Finishing False Ceilings left me in awe of the impeccable manner in which the author wove the plot, with so many nuances and strongholds. Excellent storyline, brilliantly woven, author Amit Sharma!