Uday Mane’s Debut novel Helpline has an intriguing storyline. It begins with a twenty year old Samir in a series of strange dreams where in this very familiar girl appears and beckons him. His eyes open to a psychiatrist’s clinic and the reader immediately is aware of his condition. He has not slept in months, hasn’t eaten and has emaciated beyond belief. Does that remind anyone about a movie? Yes much like the Machinist, who harbor’s guilt and the psychological repercussions lead to insomnia, drug abuse and rapid loss of weight.
Helpline is a pathos filled love story, sketched on a large canvass stretching across many years. It is not a love story that blooms, blossoms and has the perfect ending. It about the love we harbor in us for years and no matter what the distances are we do finally open up to the feelings residing in us. The story is lovingly written and feels almost autobiographical and as a reader I think it is layered with many levels to it.
Helpline is not just about finding love and losing it but finding love in so many more people and in so many ways. Love and respect for a grandfather, sibling love, love and acceptability of people who are challenged. It also shows us how we, as parents, from time immemorial, live our dreams and ambitions through our children and in the process smothering their aspirations out of them.
Despite the engaging storyline the reading becomes laborious in places because of a few editing faux pas here and there. Its not just the grammatical errors that’s the downside but had Uday Mane put in more attention and thought into the language, it would have added and accentuated the pathos and the human frailties in the story manifold times. Moreover as we progress through the book, the ending seemed very hurriedly written and incongruous. The story would have been more poignant had he not been long winding and disjointed at the end.
Having said that, I think, he weaves in and underscores the fact that love doesn’t die out quite masterfully. Even though time takes you away, the heart finds a way and it reminds me of one of Paulo Coelho’s quotes, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Though the universe conspired to bring Samir and Riya together, it was the appalling inhumanity that separated them again. 28th September 2008 is etched in everyone’s memory and Uday Mane weaves giving us a glimpse of how pointless it all is. Yet again maybe the universe had a plan for him through the tragedy, as it not only makes him the writer he wants to be but he also eventually finds his life’s goal in, Siddharth, Riya’s challenged brother.
Samir is suicidal. Rachael works for a suicide helpline. Fate connects them through a phone call. And so begins Samir’s story of love, longing, errors, regret and a girl who changed his life. As his story reaches its conclusion, Rachael will know the true reason behind his suicidal tendencies. But this suicide helpline is not any ordinary service. There is more to the mysterious and yet so convincing voice of Rachael. As this new mystery begins to unfold, Samir is going to discover three things:
What is The Helpline?
Who is Rachael?
What is Samir’s own identity?
Every year, several teenagers in India attempt suicide because of failing relationships, dwindling careers, parental pressure or the competitive world. This story is about one such teenager, his early problems and the hurdles to cope with them. This story is about finding hope in the struggle. This story is about fighting for what you believe in and discovering your true identity. This is not a story about falling in love. This is a story of rising from a failed love story.