Between love and despairSubin Bhattarai’s ‘Priya Sufi’ explores the human experience, delving into themes of love, resilience and the significance of facing life’s challenges.
When I began reading ‘Priya Sufi’, I assumed this would be any other cliche love story, but my patience in continuing with the book proved worthwhile as it was more than just a plain narrative. It was a profound exploration of the human experience, captivating themes of love, resilience and the importance of confronting life’s challenges. The novel not only captures the intricate dynamics of familial relationships but also serves as a motivational guide, encouraging readers to seek meaning and purpose in the face of adversity.
The novel’s opening scene, set against the backdrop of a broken-down vehicle on the highway from Birgunj, sets the tone for a chance encounter that becomes the linchpin for the entire narrative. The author, through the eyes of a female passenger compelled to share her story, introduces readers to a family grappling with the aftermath of a suicide attempt. The narrator, well-informed about the details, seizes the moment to share the intricate story of Sada and Sarthak, two college lovebirds whose lives take a dramatic turn.
This unique narrative device adds layers of complexity and depth to the storytelling, drawing readers into the interconnected lives of the characters.
At the heart of the story is Sada, a microbiology master’s student residing in Budhanilkantha. Her strained relationship with her younger sister, Sufi, becomes a captivating subplot, exploring the complexities of sibling dynamics. Subin Bhattarai adeptly portrays the emotional distance created by jealousy, providing a relatable and authentic dimension to the characters.
The introduction of Sarthak and the gradual development of romance with Sada adds emotional depth to the novel. Their comical conversations and mannerisms entertain, but the prolonged opening part, where they struggle to express their love, risks becoming monotonous. My initial assumption of this being just another love story was almost correct until it wasn't.
Bhattarai’s writing style is gripping and enticing. From start to finish, the reader embarks on an emotional journey. The ease of words coupled with a firm expression of emotions makes the read truly worthwhile. Additionally, the nuanced portrayal of characters allows readers to be active participants in their lives, not just passive observers.
The love story between Sada and Sarthak unfolds smoothly, providing comfort to both until an illness disrupts their lives. This significant event, wrapped in suspense, creates tension, driving the narrative forward. Bhattarai’s skillful pacing keeps readers engaged and eager to uncover the unfolding mysteries.
Sada’s future appears bleak as she battles illness, and Sarthak, unable to be her constant caretaker, gradually withdraws support, leaving Sada emotionally shattered. This sudden shift in their relationship becomes a turning point, thrusting Sada into emotional turmoil and physical vulnerability.
As their connection cools, Sada’s sister, Sufi, steps in as a surprising source of support despite their strained history. The pressures of society and gossip from neighbours intensify Sada’s struggles, pushing her to contemplate suicide as an escape from her perceived burdensome existence.
Beyond its intricate narrative, 'Priya Sufi' distinguishes itself through its thematic depth. Bhattarai delicately addresses the sensitive issue of suicide, emphasizing resilience and the importance of confronting life's challenges. The novel becomes a symbol of hope, urging readers, particularly the youth, to face life's complexities with courage and determination.
Sada, burdened by her physical limitations, feels like a weight on her father and sister. The novel powerfully expresses the psychology of a young woman full of zeal and desire, suddenly confined to bed. The storytelling is crafted in a way that deeply resonates with the reader, evoking a profound sense of empathy for the protagonist's struggles.
In terms of character development, Sada’s introverted nature and inclination to dwell on the past make her a relatable yet challenging protagonist. In contrast, Sufi's positivity and ability to forgive and forget provide a clear contrast, highlighting the novel’s central theme of choosing resilience over despair. Sarthak’s character adds another layer, illustrating the impact of a present-focused approach on relationships.
‘Priya Sufi’ extends beyond the boundaries of a typical novel. Bhattarai, known for his earlier works in the romance genre, takes a bold step in this narrative by blending elements of love, motivation and introspection. The characters’ complexity, combined with the novel’s overarching message of resilience, establishes it as a significant contribution to Nepali literature. This novel not only engages readers but also prompts them to reflect on life’s profound journey.
Author: Subin Bhattarai