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A searing look into the bare bones of a dysfunctional marriage played out against the backdrop of encroaching madness, Kiran Manral’s Missing, Presumed Dead makes for a troubling read. The author is too smart a storyteller to provide convenient or contrived answers to the questions that pile up with dizzying momentum. Yet the reader is not left hanging or frustrated. It is a satisfying yarn that is meaty, evocative and likely to keep you mulling over it, long after the last page has been reluctantly turned. Manral knows how to give her readers what they want while leaving them asking for more.
Aisha Thakur finds herself in the unenviable position of being fully aware that her marriage is dead but decides to stick to the corpse no thanks to the recalcitrant remnants of a once powerful passion that refuses to kick the bucket. And of course, there are tedious things such as duty and parental obligations to her son and daughter to be considered. If that were not bad enough, Aisha lives in constant terror knowing that the lurking chemicals in her cranium may unloose the same demons that claimed her mother’s life which if left unchecked will take her and everything she loves and once loved as well. Then a stranger shows up at her remote mountain abode in the middle of a vile storm, claiming to be her half-sister, and suddenly Aisha’s life stands poised to take the plunge into the doom that was inevitably going to be her lot.
The protagonist’s long drawn-out defeat to the monsters both within and without plays out painfully and with profound pathos, leaving the reader sick to death with anxiety and fighting back tears at various junctures during the course of her downward spiral. Aisha’s innate insecurity and vulnerability are exacerbated by both her condition as well as circumstances. Prithvi, her better half, originally comes across as a bit of a cad with rage issues and designs on her ancestral property but by choosing to tell his side of the story as well, Manral casts him in a more sympathetic light. The harsh truth is that even the best of us are ill-equipped to deal with disability and for flawed souls just trying to get by, it can turn out to be the wrecking ball that leaves nothing but devastation in its wake.
The @SheThePeople.TV Bombaywaali Summit brings together an evening of engaging discussions. The panel on women driving the food scene in Bombay is moderated by Antoine Lewis, eminent food writer and has Gauri Devidayal of The Table and Magazine Street Kitchen, Chef Sanjana Patel, Executive Pastry Chef at La Folie Patisserie and Anisha Rachel Oomen editor and co-founder of Goya Journal. Our second panel on Women making music curated & moderated by Nirmika Singh, editor, Rolling Stone has Youtube superstar Vidya Vox, manager extra ordinaire Lily Ahluwalia & Entertainment lawyer, Priyanka Khimani. The fab duo behind BooksOnToast Sharin Bhatti Nair & Anuya Jakatdar curate a panel on women turning their passion into content with Mae Thomas, indie music podcaster Maed in India, Sakshi Juneja founder of Gaysi & the super popular Youtuber Prajakta Koli. Women breaking barriers on screen has producers Rangita Pritish Nandy, Ashvini Vardi, film maker Shikha Makan with writer Jaya Misra & is moderated by Kiran Manral. Founder, Shethepeople, Shaili Chopra moderates the next discussion with screenwriter Vinta Nanda, Sushant Singh, Actor and General Secretary CINTAA, journalist Janice Sequeira & actor Saloni Chopra. Tickets: https://lnkd.in/fHvS3BN The Hive, New Great Eastern Mills
Delighted that Karmickids which began purely as an effort to document my son’s growing years, and my journey as a mother, is now part of academia as a chapter in Sucharita Sarkar‘s Ph.D Thesis on mothering narratives in contemporary India, with a special focus on mom blogs written between 2000-2013. Congrats Sucharita Sarkar, it has been a long journey and I am honoured that Karmickids could be part of your journey to a doctorate too.
While the blog on which the thesis is based, is now closed, the book I wrote based on the blog did go on to become one of the top five books on parenting in India in 2015, the year it was published. If you haven’t read it, here it is
Popular writer Kiran Manral’s latest novel is a thriller called Missing, Presumed Dead. It is about Aisha, a wife and a mother, who goes missing. She has a history of being “mentally” fragile although it is not very clear if it is a genetic inheritance from her mother or a bit of manipulation on her husband, Prithvi’s, part to keep Aisha heavily sedated. But this is not all the inheritance that Aisha has to contend with—it is also the very real fact of the property and other immoveable assets she stands to gain from her parents. A possible reason why Prithvi does not abandon her completely though he would rather spend days away from his family with a travel bag always ready in the boot of his car. He has also moved the family to a remote hill station in northern India, ostensibly for the protection of Aisha. It is not a happy marriage and Aisha remains very stressed. It is not made any easier for her husband and their two children by her OCD for maintaining cleanliness at home. Aisha’s place in the home is taken by her illegitimate half-sister, Heer, who had unexpectedly materialised at her Aisha’s doorstep. Coincidentally it happened a couple of days before Aisha’s mysterious disappearance. This is where the plot thickens.
Missing Presumed, Dead is a rivetting thriller for most parts of the novel particularly when it grapples with the puzzle of Aisha and Heer’s story and how Prithvi gets embroiled in it too. Kiran Manral’s strength has been mostly writing romance novels with inevitably the women characters etched very well. These are her strengths. She understands the space they inhabit beautifully, how the silences of women communicate far more than it seems and how they negotiate spaces continuously every single day. She also understand the romance novel space very well with the perfect lightness of touch, moving the plot smartly without overdoing it with details but focused solely on the romancing couple. Transiting to writing thrillers ( and this is not her first thriller), Kiran Manral has got the right pace in plot movement, the characters are far from flat and are easily imagined in the flesh and blood, and though there are details in the novel to build suspense they are not entirely sufficient. Thrillers tend to be packed with tiny, tiny details that it is impossible to understand the plot if every little sentence is not read and understood. It is like a large canvas with tiny details etched in. Writers of thrillers leave little to the imagination and ensure that every detail in the room/space inhabited by the protagonist is described as is their interaction with other charcters. Also much of the fast paced plot is conversation driven. Parts of this are true for Missing Presumed, Dead making it captivating to read but something is still lacking. Perhaps if Missing Presumed, Dead had been a short story it would have been a fine example of crime fiction. Be that as it may it is still a good read for it is a confident step in the direction of seeing Kiran Manral blossom as a crime fiction writer.
2 October 2018
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Missing, Presumed Dead
By Kiran Manral (Amaryllis, Rs 350)
If you’re looking for a thriller with dash of psychological drama, extramarital relationships and the idyllic settings of a hill station, this is the novel for you. Exploring the crippling boundaries of mental illness while taking the reader through the throes of a bad marriage and the introduction of ‘the other’, the book keeps you hooked to the end. A prolific writer with several books of various genres under her belt, Kiran’s latest offering will delight her fans and those looking for a gripping read.
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“A complete page turner.”
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