How much does it take to write a book? If you have a few published books to your name, there are certain chances that you might laugh at this question. But, by ‘writing a book’, I do not mean the popular romance fictions struggling with villainous circumstances or the complex science-fiction or the murder-mysteries aspiring to become a perfect crime-thriller. By ‘writing a book’, I mean, stories, which are rebellious by nature, explosive by soul and disturbing by heart. I mean stories which drill you way past your comfort-zone, deep down your conscience. When you are done reading such stories, you know that you have already lost a part of you among the pages… and that you’d never be the whole again…
I had similar experience after reading ‘It Happened in a School’ by Author Gaurav Sharma Lakhi. It was my third book of Mr. Sharma and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration, if I say that he has become one of my favourite authors.
About the Author
After devoting more than twenty years in teaching mathematics, Mr. Gaurav Sharma turned to a long cherished dream of being a published author. Half the day, he plays with numbers and for the other half, he is a puppet in the hands of his stories. A diehard optimist, lively and a lover of life, he wants his stories to stir the consciences. “It all Happened in a School” is his fifth book after “Lova@AirForce”, “Rapescars”, “Dawn at Dusk” and “Unbudgeted Innocence.”. Besides, he writes magnificent prose and poetry in Hindi.
Storyline and Plot Structure
‘It all Happened in a School’ is not a definite book. And likewise, the storyline of this book is indefinite. However, it would be better if we say that it is a documentation of unfortunate anecdotes happening in schools around us, with a protective layer branded fiction, leaving the decision of ‘Story or Not’, on the readers. Since, there is no definite storyline, there are no definite events or chain of events which are meant to thrust the story towards the climax.
The story revolves around the happenings of an infamous school ‘God & Guru Convent.” God & Guru Convent is a rather ill-reputed school run jointly by the managing committees of a Church and a Gurudwara because the heads of both the parties have vested interests. Thanks to nepotism, most of the students are on concessions and the faculty is incompetent. An amalgam of two religions, the school is where sexual peccadilloes and minor criminality are common.
Soubhagya Kaushik, an enthusiastic young teacher with an ethical approach towards his profession, joins the school. However, his consummate passion for teaching does not go down well with his colleagues while his uncompromising attitude paints him as a difficult employee in the books of the management. Soubhagya manages to win the hearts of students with his innovative ideas but his conflicts with management keep growing.
Pankhudi, a nursery teacher and the colleague for whom Soubhagya has some feelings, is raped and murdered by the libertine Sam Tito, who is the son of the vice-chairman of the managing committee.
Soubhagya’s voice for justice is squashed. And then, a girl of class one, Pia Simon, is raped in the school. This time, he has vital clues about the offender. The story revolves around Soubhagya’s struggle to get justice for his colleague and the little girl?
The Plot structure of “It all Happened in a School” is in journal entry style. Basically, it is a collection of journal entries from different people, who happen to be talking about the same school with different perspectives. Earlier, I had read this journal entry type writing in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ which enthralled me very much. The best thing about this type of plot is its command over the involvement of readers’ minds. You cannot remain just a reader with journal entry style writing. You actually begin to live the lives of the characters. You find yourself evolving with new aspect of the same incident. You are as much into the story, as the characters are.
At first, I didn’t realize the motive of Mr. Sharma, behind choosing this style of writing. It would have been quite easier for him to keep the storyline straight, juxtaposing the events and guiding the readers through the climax. Besides, there could be several readers who wouldn’t manifest such patience and get bored after few pages. This might backfire and act as an ‘Off’ for the ardent fans of Mr. Sharma. However, when I decoded what his intentions might have been, I couldn’t hold myself from applauding for him. “It all Happened in a School”, is a difficult times story and Mr. Sharma didn’t want to spoon-feed his readers. Then, what could have been better than journal style? Very thoughtful, Mr. Sharma! However, I still believe that introductory part of the plot required to be more linear.
Narration and Dialogues
Like his other books, the narration of ‘It all Happened in a School’ is flawless. However, dialogues are fewer then expectation and soliloquies contribute to the major part of the narrative. At some points, one might feel the urge for a real confront, but since, there are journal entries, you get flowing narration. But the most positive part is, characters themselves take the story forward and that is a beauty of narration, in itself.
‘It all Happened in a School’ is all about its characters. One might be surprised to find that the mentioned school ‘God & Guru Convent’, is itself a character in the book which gets its own journal space and lets the readers know that how broken it is from inside, to see all the defamations going on in its name.
The prime narrator Harjeet Singh is a practical person who acknowledges what is wrong but fails to become the child of heart. He does what his mind says and remains logical in almost all situations. In his perfect contradiction, is our Hero Soubhagya Kaushik. He is an idealist and a child of heart. He refuses to bow down to injustice in the name of practicality and stands up to his ideals. All othet characters like Mr. Bhullar, Ms. Dhingra, Pankhudi etc. play pivotal roles in the story. Every character has a circumstantial representation and that is what saves them from being fillers. I must say that journal entry style writing always presents difficulties in characterization since all the characters happen to have an independent storyline of their own perspective. But, undoubtedly, the articulate manner of dealing with so many characters is an exquisite trait of Mr. Sharma.
“It all Happened in a School” is a powerful book. It takes guts to write down such a book, maintaining all the honesty and composure. And it should be read by every gutsy reader too.
All the best, Mr. Sharma! Looking forward to you new book