A succinct, sensitive and analytical review of Maya Khandelwal’s recently released novel ‘Fireflies’ by Wani Nazir Ahmed.
Author: Maya Khandelwal
Published by: Penguin
Year of Publication: 2017
Teenage is the age when you swim with whales, ride the winds, fly on the wings of air, sleep on mattresses of cloud. It is an age when colourful flowers bloom in your bosom. It is the crucial phase of life when a boy begins to puff and a girl to powder. Under the duress of colossal hormonal changes, the teenager’s brain is being moulded and reconstructed into a new shape. Processes such as using psychological lingo, myelination, pruning and sprouting, initiate in this period. And a changing brain means a changing identity. Because the teen is oblivious of what they actually want or what they can do, they tend to try umpteen things to discover what works for them, what feels right, and who they are becoming. Romantic relationships between teenagers are the order of the day in the high school hallway and lunchrooms, and parents may or may not be aware of their teenagers’ romantic relationships and liaisons. The fantasies of electronic media, internet, social networking sites, romantic fantasy novels and movie romances flood girls’ mind with the perception that fairy tales exist. But then the realities of boyfriends whose romantic interests quickly shift from one girl to another settle in.
Maya Khandelwal’s book, Fireflies is one more addition to teenage writings like The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Things They Carried by Tim O’ Brien, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne. The author seems carrying a developmental psychologist, Erikson, in her mindscape, who like a muse reveals a long chain of stories concerned with the very psyche of teens and a train of problems a teenager is beset with, including truancy, break ups, suicidal thoughts, beauty consciousness, craving for recognition, envy for the other sex, daydreaming, loud thinking, mood swings, associating with peer groups etc. The author hands us a mirror in which the teenagers can see all the images that rigmarole in their subterranean, the subconscious through the characters like Trisha, Nikky, Paramdeep, Sarah, Rohan, Anushka and the others. The book provides succour to the teenagers when at some odd times suicidal thoughts may hammer in their minds. Like a friend, guide, parents they will feel the author’s hand on their jolted shoulders with a soothing advice:
“When the idea of suicide strikes your mind, don’t please stay alone. Come immediately in physical contact with your friends, relatives or parents at the best. Better talk to them face to face. There’s is a life beyond exams! Find a hobby; develop a passion that can devour your loneliness. Life is beautiful. It is precious…”
Not only does the book works as “the leech-gatherer of Wordsworth” in the minds of the teens by casting away their despondency and depression and replacing them with ‘independence and resolution’, but it is also a guiding beacon light to the parents who sometimes want their own unfulfilled dreams realised through their children, hardly being able to feel the aspirations and dreams their kids are throbbing with. Maya Khandelwal wants to put across the clarion message to the parents to do away with teaching their children that life is just either the top or the bottom, either A or Z. No, it is not that way; there are many amazing steps in between the top and the bottom, many wonderful letters between A and Z, preaches the book. The parents should draw lessons from Trisha’s diary, which is a character like the others in the book. Trisha, who wants her interests and desires to be listened to by her parents, her mother especially, unravels the emotions of her heavy heart in her dear diary .
Linguistically it is a fact that a harvest of vocabulary to any language is added by the teens. Though the words cannot be as eruditely coined as by a linguist or by a writer of calibre as that of Shakespeare or Chaucer, the teen lingo does contribute to the language of a particular culture or society. And Fireflies is fraught with such hinglish slangs and teenage lingo like Arrey, cool, dude, xtra, haramjjjade, happy badddey, OMGs, Leddhim, dunno, etc. By incorporating such teenage lingo and a bewitching style in the book, the author hits the bull’s eye, pierces through the body straight to the heart of the reader-whether a teen or an elder.
Leafing through the pages of the book meticulously, the teen age is relived in the elders and the parents. This is, I think, a tremendous contribution of the book having the efficacy to make the elders, the parents look back on their teen age dotted with bitter-sweet memories, incidents and events, thereby forcefully shunning the act of putting extra pressure on their kids, eschew from standing like stumbling blocks in carving out the career of their kids as per their own interests and talents.
Fireflies is a consoling and encouraging piece of literature for teens especially. It goads, it inspires and to echo Dr Santosh Bakaya’s words, it advises the teens to “go hitch your wagon to the stars, go touch the stars, go fly untrammelled in the blue skies.”
To sum up this all, it can be said with no concealment of truth that the book is a must read for all, especially in the times we live in. Yes, it will serve as a guide, a philosopher, a teacher to all, teens as well as elders, in their respective spheres.
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