Reading Savi Sharma’s This is Not Your Story is like Waiting for Godot. Everyone is Vladimir and Estragon rooted near a tree, stuck in a limbo, waiting for the mysterious Godot to show up. No one knows who Godot is (even the writer Samuel Beckett didn’t), and yet he/she/it is pivotal.
If the title hasn’t already told you it oozes with lessons of inspiration, the words ‘this is not your story’ are pasted in abundance through the 200-page novel. It doesn’t even seem clever to know the author’s first book was: Everyone Has a Story.
After a relatively intriguing prologue that is the book’s only honest portion, the plot begins with the story of a coward – unsurprisingly named ‘Shaurya’. The three main characters pour their hearts’ desires and demons into diaries, in words that infantilise them rather than carve them as millennials struggling with life-changing plunges. While Shaurya obsesses over his lack of courage to pursue a filming career, Miraya struggles with trust after a sour marriage. Anubhav’s narrative of blinding success and tragic losses is speckled in between, only to cross the others in the twilight stages. Unfortunately, his addition to the duo only adds to the clichéd. Their stories intersect in Jaipur whose colourful history and ageing forts are stationed like a poster, as flat as a Chetan Bhagat drama.
Dialogues resemble a priest’s teachings on life and the sickeningly sweet plot is hardly original. This is Not Your Story could have redeemed itself with multi-dimensional characters, a twist in the end or even a sob story. Yet it predictably ends with rainbows and butterflies in Mumbai, the only city in India Bollywood assumes can make dreams come true or terribly stash them in the corners where the limelight doesn’t shine. Jaipur, meanwhile, lies forgotten like a stage prop for background settings as it ages a little more.
It’s not that all inspirational fiction is whimsical and boring. Even cynics will let Richard Bach fly them through metaphysical tales of grief and truth. The iconic Jonathan Seagull can drift even pessimists along the changing winds as Illusions delivers an ode to the guide and the mentor. Bach’s achingly beautiful in The Bridge Across Forever will transverse its doubters across the universe, dimensions and time in an eternal love story.
Then there are authors such as Paulo Coelho -- who has created a cult out of metaphors and mysteries (read The Secret, The Alchemist, Veronica Decides to Die) – and Kahlil Gibran who relies on spirituality in The Prophet. Many other novices have humbly attempted to tell just unadulterated versions of real-life lessons.
After a host of deliberation, the inescapable realisation about This is Not Your Story is simply that it has no features to celebrate, even for the most optimistic among us. This is said with the belief that most stories deserve a chance but storytelling is also an art that deserves intrigue and wonder, and love. A story that fails to paint with words, which ignite a fleeting emotion, a feeling, an idea or inspiration, is like waiting for something to arrive. Sadly, Godot never arrived.