There is no apparent reason to read A Blueprint for Love. It isn’t inspiring or exhilarating and it doesn’t even indulge in a wild theme. But there’s a sombre beat embedded in its words that will provoke a silent inquiry, a question that that will make you turn its pages and read till the end.
Chatura Rao’s book is like a song divided by two rhythms – the soft, melancholic rumination of the past and the volatile drumming of the present. Its tone becomes its definition and limitation at the same time. The story’s four main characters – all of who are quiet, lonely figures – consistently revert to the threads of their memories as reality knocks at their safe haven. Their only quest is a simple desire: finding home.
Like any other odyssey, the characters’ longing for home is riddled with obstructions that arrive in the guise of a broken marriage, the death of a sister/best friend, confinement within a conservative family, and even communal violence.
Which props up the inquiry: What is home? Is it the physical space where you were born? Is it the elements of your life? Is it where those you love live? Is it religion? Is it in adventure pumping shots of adrenaline? Is it the calm of completing a routine? Or is it simply another person or people – a friend, a family, a lover, a confidant?
As Reva, Suveer, Zahyan and Mahnoor grapple with these questions, their personal tragedies fuse with this overbearing sense of rootlessness, like unmoored boats adrift on a vast ocean of identities. Maybe that’s why most characters in A Blueprint for Love blanket reality with memories, follow the sound back to their beginnings, and willingly submerge themselves in the wave of the past.
The plot takes in the inflamed streets of post 2002-Gujarat, tense with religious rivalries, where Mahnoor falls victim to militant Hindu fervor. Just as his adversaries do, Zahyan channels his rage into extremism in his urge to avenge his wife. Rao fits a journalist, Suveer, into the story as a driver of justice but Reva’s inclusion seems almost forced and her help to the wronged couple only serves the love story between her and Suveer. It does nothing for the collective fight against injustice.
Although this thematic shift makes Zahyan the most multidimensional character – one whose sensitivity belies the violence he is adopting -- it makes A Blueprint for Love muddled, not complex. Still, sketching the circumstances that prod Zahyan to adopt a hardline philosophy is an interesting attempt to understand the making of an extremist; for many of those who take up arms are not beasts, but victims of exploitation too.
There’s something pure about reading the work of an unfamiliar author. The reader takes the plunge with little or no knowledge. The crisp first page can spring any surprise, devoid of any expectations. Chatura Rao’s novel seems as nomadic as its characters, roving amid its confusion. But as the quote goes: “Not all those who wander are lost.”
A Blueprint for Love isn’t one of the lost ones.