Of all forms of magic that exist on earth, I believe love is one magic that stands out. The power of love is so immense that it can bring together beings from worlds apart and bind them together in an unbelievable way. Almost every day you find stories that bear witness to this miraculous power of love. One such unsaid story of love that brings two people from seemingly different human worlds is Pankaj Dubey’s, Trending in Love (published by Penguin Metro Reads). With a plethora of love stories available in the world of books, Pankaj’s choice of IAS aspirants as his protagonists is quite unconventional yet clever.
Sanam hails from a privileged and protective household whereas Aamir grows up in an environment where life is challenging almost every day. The happenstances in their lives lead them towards a dream pursuit called IAS. Neither of them realize that this pursuit is going to open many pleasant and unpleasant pathways in their lives.
The first part of the book tells you about the individual struggle they encountered before emerging as rank holders. Their struggles are not the same. Despite the privileges that she enjoys, Sanam comes to face her share of battles against patriarchy and then she decides to conquer the dream single-handedly. Aamir, on the other hand, has an endless list of battles to fight, most important of them the battles that he fights within himself before his mentor-boss Major Kalra nudges him to the right path. Their struggles are indeed tales of inspiration as much the story of an IAS topper is. The second part of the book is about these two kindred souls finding their way towards each other amidst the hilly terrains of Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.
While the book is primarily a story of love, the author does touch upon a variety of socio-political issues. The first chapter itself sets off a discussion on if a financially well endowed, privileged Dalit candidate must opt for her reservation or should she let it go for the sake of more deserving candidates. Then there is this long list of sensitive subjects of concerns when your other protagonist is a Kashmiri. So yes, we sit through discussions on excessive militancy, police abuses, internet outages and whatnot. Pankaj isn’t finished yet. He also talks through his characters about the good and bad of social media, homophobia and more.
On the other hand, he also drowns you in sweet pools of poetry, now and then. The beauty of Mussoorie and Kashmir come alive in his words and haunts you for not being there right now. The maggi outings, blueberry cheesecakes and the lovers’ sweet nothings keep you smiling.
My only disappointment was that the book had so much potential to be more than just the love of Sanam and Aamir. The stories of Aamir’s cousins Moeen and Sabah, Aamir’s Abbu, Ramya and the characters of Major Kalra and even Aamir’s roommate Badal had a very intense narrative in themselves. If knitted together, they could have given way to a more powerful tale while Sanam and Aamir could still have ended up in each other’s arms. But then, I am merely a reader and readers always want more. A little more drama and gentle heartbreak are all I ask for before the happy ending. Sigh! Pankaj seemed to have thought otherwise and just saved the readers from more tears. So, there it ends with a lot of love and hope.
I recommend this book for two reasons, one it is an absolute page-turner that makes your heart flutter. Second, it gives you a peek into the lives of UPSC aspirants, their unique life (that involves barely any living) and also what it takes to graduate from an Officer Trainee to a successful bureaucrat.