Book Review

Free to Fly High Flight of The Flamingo: Sangeeta MallMohd Farhan

Publisher: Westland/Tranquebar
Genre: Fiction
Extent: 312 pages
Price: Rs 295.00

Sangeeta Mall, an Indian woman writer, constructs her stories on the terrain of the life of modern Indian women, who are striving hard to lead a self-contained life in a patriarchal society where they are betrayed by their own husbands. Despite their disappointment, they arduously struggle to attain success and do. Such is the story of Flight of The Flamingo in which the protagonist, Preeta Dhingra, an editor working in Pradhan Publishing undergoes several upheavals in her life. Although she has a strong will, she fails to do well in her profession, or to achieve much for her young daughter and old mother who is about to die.

Sonia Vaswani the corporate honcho, Rimpy the socialite, and Preeta, the editor, are the integral part of this community of urban Indian women, who have achieved success and recognition professionally, but who have been left wounded and damaged in their personal lives.

The title is a metaphor for these urban women most Indian women can perhaps identify with. Modern of them are like flamingos, not shackled by social bonds or obligations. Instead, they are free to fly high in the sky. And yet, they cannot completely break away from the society in which they live. Preeta, being divorced from her husband at the age of twenty-four, joins Pradhan Publishing owned by Ashish Pradhan, who mercilessly exploits his editors to make money. The book unveils the truth about the world of publishing that only those books are published that can fetch a big amount of money. During a conversation with Preeta, the owner says , 'You're not here to enhance to your aesthetic world. You're here to publish books that people will buy.'

Rimpy writes one such racy fiction that is a 'cash cow' for the publisher, but Preeta being a serious and conscientious editor, has always had a grudge against publishing such books. That is why she is always up in arms against Ashish Pradhan.

While editing Sonia's manuscript, Preeta is deeply moved by the story. Preeta finds similarities between her life and Sonia's story, and therefore she identifies closely with the book and has an urge to publish it. But Ashish Pradhan is against it. According to him, the book would not be worthwhile from a business perspective. . Sonia believes that eighty per cent of men cheat on their wives in urban India. Rimpy Bajaj also stands in the same queue as Sonia and Preeta. Rimpy is frustrated because of her husband's relations with other women, although she is recognized as a powerful woman in her profession.

Preeta has to shoulder the responsibility of her two year old baby's upbringing as well as of her mother who has been diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps her diffidence is a direct consequence of her failure in her personal life, especially in terms of sustaining her marriage.

The novel unravels different strands of the publishing world – how an editor has to work, what an author expects from a publisher, what a publisher wants, and how rapports develop amongst the publisher, the author, and the editor. Mall has presented the picture with subtlety and elegance.

Mohd Farhan, a young poet and creative writer from a small town called Budaun in Uttar Pradesh. He has a master's in English Literature from Rohilkhand University, Bareilly. Some of his works are available on his blog.