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Never Never Land: A Place Where I belong

Never Never Land
by Namita Gokhale
Speaking Tiger. Pages 170. Rs 499



When the wizened snow peaks of Kumaon beckon, Iti Arya, a recluse writer and editor in Gurgaon, must heed the call. So, she shuts down her lonely, unhappy, fifty-something life without regret and heads to ‘The Dacha’ and her grandmothers, a ninety-and-thereabouts Badi Amma and Rosinka Singh, all of hundred and two. Embraced by the misty and resplendent arms of Kumaon, and the loving, unquestioning love of two ancient women, Iti’s loneliness, uncertainty and anxiety slowly dissipate and she begins her slow but steady march to a realisation that she must ‘retreat to return’. The August rains that play hide-and-seek with the sun keep the inhabitants of the Dacha safe from the encroachment of the outside world. But caught in the confines of the remote cottage on dark, stormy nights, with the candlelight flickering, the denizens of ‘The Dacha’, Badi Amma and Rosinka, journey back into the past and their dark secrets come tumbling out. Caught in the mayhem of memories along with Iti, is Nina of the mysterious antecedents.


Namita Gokhale, a creative and imaginative wordsmith, has crafted a story within a story, with great finesse. She peels off each layer bit by bit, surprising the reader at every turn with a full bouquet of flavours of a heady, mature wine. Gokhale weaves an elegant, literary tapestry with poetic gems and philosophical threads that make the reader pause and introspect. She examines with loving warmth as well as a no-holds-barred honesty, the ageing and deterioration of the human body, the mind and the memory. At the same time she dwells upon the foibles of youth and the anxiety of losing a loved one to death. The story of Never Never Land also encompasses within its framework the concern about global warming, human and urban encroachment on pristine natural beauty and the raging fall-out of man’s unsolicited interventions. And yet, despite the fact that the book hinges around the thought of impending death, with constant allusions to an ephemeral life, it leaves the reader with a serene sense of acceptance, even hope. ‘It is not renewal but revival’, says Iti in the closing segment of the book and we agree whole-heartedly with her.


What I found very arresting about the book was the manner in which Gokhale has seamlessly inter-laced music, literature and art. The bits and pieces of music played on the gramophone or sung in quavering voices by Rosinka and Badi Amma, from ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ to ‘Auld Lang syne,’ are evocative of a leisurely time when we were not caught up in the frenzy of a rat race. Roerich’s paintings hanging in the dusty, mouldy library of ‘The Dacha’, make Nicholas Roerich a living, breathing presence. It is almost as though the brilliant blues and pristine whites of his canvas are brought to radiant, vibrant life. The gorgeous book cover with its detailing of Roerich’s painting ‘Oriot Messenger of the White Burkhant,’ adds to the uncanny feeling that Roerich is the sentinel that guards the entry to this beautiful Never Never Land, a land where the sage mountains speak to those who would care to listen. Like the main protagonist, Iti, while reading Never Never Land I felt ‘I was alone, and myself, in a place where I belonged.’ A must read for lovers of literature, music and art.

Published in The Tribune

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