It is an awe-inspiring book with a sad yet sweet love story at its core. It is a tale of 21-year Ankita who goes through a lot in her life. A peculiar story of a perfect girl who ends up in a mental asylum, a girl whom destiny throws back but she bounces back.
Life Is What You Make It
By Preeti Shenoy
209 pages, Srishti Publisher
Life Is What You Make It is the second novel of the Indian bestselling author, Preeti Shenoy. It is an awe-inspiring book with a sad yet sweet love story at its core. It is a tale of 21-year Ankita who goes through a lot in her life. A peculiar story of a perfect girl who ends up in a mental asylum, a girl whom destiny throws back but she bounces back.
The novel tells the story of Ankita, a cheerful, sweet, smart, and ambitious girl. The plot of the story is in the 1980s, where the only source of entertainment was Doordarshan, where letters were in trends. Ankita has a very conservative parent. That’s why she has to sneak out to talk to her boyfriend, Vaibhav. They used to exchange letters. At the beginning, the protagonist, Ankita is waiting outside a doctor’s office. The real story begins from her college days, where she was elected as ‘secretary’. Everything goes smoothly until she meets Abhi in an inter-collegiate event. Abhi falls for her and takes it upon himself to woo her. They get pretty close but everything falls apart when Ankita gets admission in one of the premiere college in Mumbai. Abhi doesn’t wants to be apart from her so he suggests her to choose him over her dream college. She refuses it singlehandedly, also she expresses that she is doubtful that they will be touch.
The very next day, she finds out that Abhi has committed suicide. When she goes to his house, his grandfather says to her “Never to belittle love, no matter where it came from and to be a little humbler, nicer and kinder with my words and actions.” His words cuts through her heart but she puts a brave upfront and leaves for her college to study MBA. To distract herself, she immerses herself fully in her studies. She aces in her college. Also she gets close to one of her college friend, Joseph.
After coming to Mumbai, she always seeks perfection but she begins to lose it when one day, her parent find Vaibhav’s letter in her room and burns. It somehow acts as trigger, her past starts to haunt her. She stops going to college. She blames herself for everything Abhi’s death, for cheating Vaibhav and Joseph. She finally tells the truth to both of them. She attempts to kill herself multiple times. She suffers from critical stage of bipolar disorder. At last, she ends up in a mental hospital.
So, what happens there? What happens when your life suddenly starts going downhill? What happens when you are degraded from perfect to nothing by the destiny? Read this novel to find out.
Preeti Shenoy never cease to amaze me. After her first national bestselling novel, “34 Bubblegum and candies”, her second novel “Life Is What You Make It” definitely doesn’t disappoint. She has mesmerizing talent as a story teller. Through this tale, she has made an attempt to clear the taboo about mentally ill people. She has shown the dilemma of mentally ill people, she says, “If I pretended to be “normal” and behaved just like everybody else, if I masked my emotions and smiled a lot, even if I felt disconsolate, nobody would be able to tell”. It makes you to see them in different light. She makes you feel connected to the characters. The way she explained every mental disease in the story, shows her dedication and the effort she has put to do research for the book. However, it would have done more good to the book if the author have saved the enormous details of Ankita’s mental condition as it makes the novel a bit boring. Although, she has managed to pull our heartstrings with the following lines: “This is frightening, this world without words, this world of darkness and void. I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to make it stop…… To be trapped like this in one’s own body is a fate worse than death. With death, at least there is an end. Here, the suffering is endless.”
What I didn’t like was the bond between Vaibhav and Ankita, which is shown very strong as well as the very fragile at the same time. Ankita would never have cheated on him with Abhi if they were truly in love. Also, the reaction of Ankita’s parent after finding Vaibhav’s letter seems superficial. Come to think of it, their daughter is perfect in every aspect of her life, why a parent will react that extremely over a letter which is written way long back. Also, some of the characters of the book are shallow. The plot of the novel is very conflicting as it swings between past and present, it really confuses the readers.
The best thing about the book is that is contains both prologue and epilogue. While the prologue increases the curiosity of the reader, epilogue shows the significance of the title. Preeti Shenoy has shown a different aspect of life, she says, “if you have not made somebody’s day happier, if you’ve not appreciated something good that has happened to you and if you have not felt thankful to be alive, then you have wasted that day of your life on earth!” It tells that even if your life is a mess, you can still do something to make it better. Ankita is reborn in the story like the birth of Phoenix. She finds out that life is worth living from her journey. My favorite quotes from the story is, “The world is indeed a better place when there is love, friendship, acceptance and hope. Powered by these you can indeed overcome anything including destiny.”
It is perfect story for middle-age people who want to relive their college days, riding the motorcycle with your boyfriend, exchanging letters, and sneaking out to talk to each other. It is an impressive novel which has every emotions, love, guilt, and sorrow at its peak. Give it a try, it is worth one-time read.