Start Writing. No matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.
- Louis L’ Amour (American Novelist)
Shabri Prasad Singh’s debut novel ‘Borderline’ a fictionalised record of her struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder, probably happened because she was prompted by the experts treating her to start writing about her complex life as a part of her therapy. A reason, she equally believed, might work and help her from completely destroying her life.
And so, as readers we have this brutally honest and a bold story of Amrita Srivastava who has been to hell and back. Written in first person the story revolves around the the roller - coaster life - experiences of Amrita as a child and an adult.
Amrita and her older sister Sati have had a privileged childhood. They have travelled and lived in Europe (London) surrounded by Indian diplomats for a big part of their childhood. Amrita is the second child of an influential IPS officer R.S Srivastava and his beautiful wife Neelkamal– also from an elite political family (there’s some French connection too).
Amrita was always a problem child with an unreasonable need to seek attention from her parents unlike her elder sister, Sati. However, the early signs of her real problems and emotional instability starts to show when her parents’ file for a divorce. Unlike her elder sister, she’s unable to cope with the trauma of her family breaking up and blames both the parents (and later their respective partners) for a long time.
She’s extremely close to her father and almost worships him. As for his part, he loves her equally and is protective of her. He understands that while his elder daughter can fend for herself; the younger one needs parental guidance and support. And throughout his life he not only indulges her but also tries to keep her out of harm’s way. After her parents’ divorce, both the sisters start living with their father and can only meet their mother during the weekends. This vast change in their domestic situation impacts Amrita greatly and she loses whatever little interest she had in her studies and spends most of her time in bad company or some “happening party.”
“Rather than focusing on studies, my priority was to find ways to give papa the slip.”
Amrita is heartbroken when she has to leave for the US for her higher studies upon her father’s insistence. She somehow manages to cope with her new environment only when she meets Hafez and falls in love with him. But soon her insecurities comes to haunt her and she starts becoming envious and possessive of her boyfriend. The relationship ends unhappily, leaving her even more emotionally disturbed. Things just start to go downhill from there and one tragedy follows another, the most devastating of them being her father’s sudden demise.
The rest of the story is about how her “mind allows the darker demons that lurk within to possess it” and ruin not only her own life (fuelled by excessive drinking, drugs and multiple bad relationships) but also that of everyone around her until she finally recognises her problem and consciously undertakes the journey to heal herself with professional help.
What makes this book a remarkable read is its excruciating honesty and the boldness with which the story has been told. On a personal note, I would really like to be friends with people like Amrita who are bold, genuine and don’t shy away from accepting their weakness or mistakes.
However, my last thoughts are about something that the book brings out as a side story with a devastating consequence (if revealed). Actually, it mentions a mysterious lady writer who takes advantage of Amrita’s vulnerable state; get her to spill out intimate details of her life and her mental problem and then publishes the entire story in the form of her next novel. The (dubious) woman character is referred to as ‘Ria’ in the book. No surname. Only Ria.
Borrowing from the immortal lines of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ -
‘Who is Ria…?’
Maybe we’ll find out soon. My best wishes to the author.