Henna for the Broken-Hearted : A Review

by ashwinia


This was originally published in the July edition of DASHING MAGAZINE Pg 23-24

It was one of those days when nothing made sense. Life seemed like a meaningless itinerary I had to stick to, only the only places on it were work and home. I questioned life and its purpose. I sat at work wondering why I was there in the first place. Aimless blog hopping led me to a blog named ‘The diary of a white Indian housewife’. Piqued, mostly by a picture of a tall brunette clad in a red lehenga, I read more. In no time, I was on Flipkart looking for the cheapest copy of Henna for the Broken–Hearted.
This is one of those books you begin to like even before you read; it’s the essence of the theme, perhaps. This book, you can quite judge by its cover. The calm waves, a blend of azure and frothy white, nudging the side of a lonely boat and the intricately patterned teal floral designs on top of the cover page are certainly indicative of the pacifying story in the pages to follow. The illustrative description of the henna/mehendi designs adorning a woman’s palm and the possible implication of something on a level much beyond is nothing less than brilliant.
When Sharell’s husband breaks to her one day, that he is having an affair, it ruins her happiness and breaks her world apart. Suddenly life feels empty. Work was never fulfilling, but now, every second seems to bellow that into her ear. Lost and anguished, she decides to find a new life; one all for herself. She travels all the way to India, on a volunteering stint. In Kolkatta, where she stays initially, she meets a lot of new people: both Indians and visitors like her. One of those days, she meets Aryan, a rather calm and a calming man with a beautiful smile. There is definite attraction and liking. In India, Sharell finds something to keep her going, despite the initial glitches. She learns a lot, to adapt: hindi, handling the pestering vendors, bargaining, shooing away the pesky strangers and the nosey acquaintances and also what she sees as the amusing Indian washroom ways. Eventually, she quits her job back in Australia and moves to India. And that, she sees in hindsight as the best decision she ever made. The story goes on, along with Sharell, partying in Kolkotta, traveling to the Varkala beach down south and then high up in the valleys nestled in between the frozen white peaks of the Himalayas and then finally, to Mumbai which she makes her home and lives with Aryan for a long time to come.
Sharell puts out her emotions in every other paragraph of the book, hiding nothing. I empathized with her when she had a tough time fitting in, when she was gazed at by strangers, when she was unsure and scared and angry. To anyone that’s unsure or scared, the book is comforting and heartening. Sharell becomes a new friend, you relate to. Suddenly, all that you thought was not practical seems plausible. It certainly leaves one with conviction and hope.
If you’re looking for just any good book to lounge with after work, parts of this book might seem like a repetitive rant. You might not want to read twenty two times in two hundred pages about someone longing to run home and hide herself from people to find solace. Forty instances of the concept of Indian time, unexpected visits and wet bathrooms might not be the best choice for a world you want to engross yourself in. The zigs and the zags and the ceaseless vacillation can cause the book to get slightly draggy. The writing style is simple, too simple that it may seem dreary. At a point, my dream to write a book didn’t seem like a task as colossal as I thought it to be. However, this book is certainly more about the experiences and emotions it recounts than the writing itself, which can cause you to overlook the latter.

As the name goes, Sharell soothes the broken-hearted, inspiring them to keep faith. For all the others, it can be a fascinating read about a brave girl, a seemingly unfeasible decision and inconstant, nomadic life which all ends well or a passable almost daily written diary of a white Indian housewife.
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