I have been reading voraciously these days. My love for reading has begun irking the folks around me, for they often remark, “Why do you want to read so much? Do something else. Reading is not everything.” But, I do not tell them that I think reading is the warmest, healthiest way to fill the abyss in my life. I do not tell them that if not for reading, I would be sucked in by this quicksand called loneliness. I do not tell them that reading fills all those empty hours, when I could have had a lover, cracked some jokes, and sealed those moments with sounds of our laughter. Reading fills my lungs with air.
I am an emotional reader, and my blogs are emotion-driven too. When I write, I can only say how I responded to the book, rather than discussing its merit. While some of my friends loathe that trait of mine, I do not know to write any other way, and I don’t intend to try changing. If my blogs are charged with emotions, it is only because I don’t sieve my thoughts before pinning it down here. At the end of the day, the more I make my blogs personal, the more I feel cathartic. And, that’s exactly how I can help myself. So, I am going to write about Forbidden in the same fashion.
In the last one week, as I was reading Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden, I meditated about the therapeutic power of books. Forbidden, which was profound and heartrending, made me burst into tears. Crying — the very thing that I couldn’t do for a long while — came over to me like a friend with open arms, and hugged me till my eyes had no more tears. How grateful I am to Forbidden for helping me to unload some baggage, reduce the clutter in my chest, and breathe a whiff of fresh air!
Since my 9-year-old marriage crumbled last year, I have been doing many positive things to lift my spirits. As much as I try to cope with the worst fall of my fall, I destroy all my efforts by overeating, by being way too sedentary, and by alienating myself from the world. However, every once in a while, something warm takes place, and I snap out of the darkness with some effort. In spite of the overwhelming sadness that I have been experiencing, I couldn’t cry since the time I became single again. I would feel a lump in my throat, a heartbeat near my collarbone, many unhappy butterflies fluttering in my stomach looking for their way out to freedom, a shooting pain in my shoulder, indomitable restlessness in my mind, and an uncontrollable urge to keep moving and runaway from everything. There had been times, when I wished I could cry, wailed till my throat became sore, bawled my eyes out, sobbed till my body ran out of oxygen. I wished I could go straight onto the cold floor, shed a river of tears, and drown my sorrows in it. But, it never happened. I moved with an enormous iceberg in my chest. I dragged myself, and kept looking for something that would melt the iceberg. And then, I read Forbidden. When I closed the book, the iceberg turned into a river, the river then evaporated, and I felt empty. In a good way. I always knew books would end up doing that favour to me. All that I had to do was endure the wait, and pain.
Forbidden followed a dysfunctional family. The parents were divorced; the father moved to Australia with his new family, and the mother, who explored romance with many men, almost abandoned her five children — Lochan and Maya, who were in their late teens, Kit, who was thirteen, Tiff and Willa, who were just between eight and five. The incredibly responsible Lochan and Maya battled to keep the family together, in spite of their alcoholic mother, grumpy, cynical teenage brother, two tiny, innocent, attention-seeking siblings, and their own school and lessons. As much as they were slipping into the role of their missing parents, they cracked under the pressure often. But, they always pulled themselves together for the sake of their siblings, whom they always fondly called ‘children’.
Maya was a kind girl. She had a great grasp of their crisis, and helped Lochan to wade through it. Maya and Lochan always remembered that if they failed, then the children would be taken into Social Services’ care. That was their worst nightmare. The intelligent Lochan suffered from anxiety disorder. Although he was his cheerful self at home, in school, he couldn’t make friends, do presentations, and even raise his hand to answer at class. He was heartrendingly lonely. Despite all his Himalayan efforts to raise the children, and excel in school, his mother was never grateful. She often accused him of being ‘stuck up’. When Lochan derailed, lost his morale, Maya gave him a shoulder to lean on. The siblings, who were best friends (maybe, because he was just a year and a few months older than her), eventually fell in love with each other, which only seemed natural and beautiful to me.
It’s a taboo, Lochan and Maya thought, falling in love with one’s own sibling, and taking it to the next level by making love to each other. They were aware of the price of the consequence. They tried hard to shrug off the feeling; however their love for each other was bigger than themselves, and they had no other way but to let it engulf them. Their love story was the most poignant of all that I have read. Many times, I read their exchanges over and over again. Suzuma’s prose was stunning, and she didn’t make me squirm. Not even for a wee bit.
Forbidden was a compelling, deep meditation on love, mental wellness, rules and norms established by society and considered so normal that they are not challenged, and humans’s unquenchable thirst to be loved in return. As many other extraordinary love stories, Forbidden too had a tragic end. It blew me to smithereens. But, it couldn’t have ended any other way. This book was something.