The Habit of Love by Namita Gokhale is a collection of thirteen stories that reflect and internalize the lives of women. Of course one cannot generalize anything basis these stories, however yes they provide the necessary framework needed to understand the environment around us. Some women do not belong to the present, some are parts of today and now and some are just wanderers.
Namita Gokhale speaks to you through her characters and stories. She wants you to believe and there are times you do, only wanting more. I wished at times, that may be the stories would continue and lengthen to a novella or so, because some of them had that potential. The women in these stories are not extraordinary. They do not take life-changing decisions, or change the world. What they do instead is connect with the reader and make them see things and situations a little differently.
The stories are well laid out. From an older woman’s infatuation with a younger man to the messenger swan narrating a story of doomed lovers, Nala and Damayanti, the stories capture the essence without becoming pedantic or superficial. The profundity of the stories are revealed through what goes on in the minds of the women, the not-so-quiet lives lead and the uneasiness with which their lives go haywire sometimes and sometimes are in control.
My favourite story in the entire collection has to be the three-parts, “Grand Hotel”, where each part is unique and different, like a quilt of different patches and merging in the end. The Habit of Love is different from her earlier books, which were flippant and funny. This one is serious and makes you think a little. The woman’s heart is not laid bare and at the same time there is enough and more of a glimpse to make readers wonder. The writing strikes you in a couple of places and in some it seems a little hurried, however it is a great read for a summer afternoon.