There seems to be a place for every love story stereotype in The One You Cannot Have. In Preeti Shenoy’s book, the girl is a victim of circumstances, the boy is wading his way through decisions - some impulsive, some definitive and some not his own. She has little control over the road ahead and even when she tries to she fails while he determines his future.
Just a distance away from producing caricatures for characters to fill her plot, it’s surprising the writer - who seems embedded in a lifestyle that’s very today as the author note says of Shenoy being a ‘blogger, poet, nature-lover and yoga buff’ and one who has ‘given talks at many prestigious educational institutions’ - should fall back on a narrative that is all too familiar and non-confrontational and not explore a bolder take on urban romances. Shenoy’s earlier outings endorse this soft take on relationships and this book too seems to follow that lead.
That said, complexity and unconventionality are not every reader’s demand and The One... does make for light, easy reading and should keep you through the long waits at airports or stations.
Aman Mathur and Shruti Srinivasan were once enveloped in a luminous love, one that has left behind such rose-tinted memories of times spent together and coy love-making that it continues to haunt them two years after they are no longer together.
Shruti feels she was left no choice by her parents but to ditch Aman and marry Rishabh Prasad from Mumbai since her conservative south Indian parents would have none of the not-so-well off north Indian boyfriend and his widowed mother. To make matters worse, her mother gets diagnosed with breast cancer and Shruti feels obliged to do right by her parents.
Aman, who has stowed away every memory of Shruti's in a briefcase, moves on with his career, shifting even on-site to a project in London and having a one-night-stand, as if betraying Shruti, all to forget her.
Aman and Shruti would have continued to move away from one another had it not been for Aman’s sudden need to find her and Rishabh stumbling upon the sappy, intimate college-time online exchanges between Shruti and Aman. Aman, now having relocated to Bangalore, is torn between his increasing attraction to Anjali Prabhu, a journalist with a local magazine where she dishes out standard pop psycho babble on man-woman relationships, and his memories of Shruti. Meanwhile Rishabh morphs from a loving husband to a jealous partner who even taunts Shruti for her behaviour with his not so-nice parents. This drives her to mentally reliving moments with Aman that tower over every relationship she’s known and has her wanting him again.
Anjali is the independent, cheery city girl who slips into a fitting salwar kameez and avoids alcohol when meeting a prospective mother-in-law.
Now throw in Latika Nair and Sriram Surve, Anjali’s go-to friends in times of most needs, Vikram, Aman’s friendly boss whose sexy wife Dipika - every character seems in awe of her figure - makes more than friendly overtures towards Aman.
All these are characters known to the universe of Mills & Boons readers and to a masala film buff. Therein lies its appeal and its warning.