The Meanderers will at times offend, switch moods abruptly and not even make sense – pretty much how life is.
How much struggle can one face and still remain resilient throughout it all? How do people find the inner strength to cope when they’re at their wit’s end?
The Meanderers by Dhawal Trivedi is a novel that presents an answer to those questions in the form of a coming-of-age novel that is split into three distinct parts. Om Vats is the protagonist whose childhood, adolescence, and adulthood serve as the backdrop to the philosophy that weaves in and out of this narrative.
We’re the meanderers, going from here to there, like a river going through its windy course; with the figs and the branches, with the leaves and ashes, with the lovers and the dead, with the sinkable ships and the unsinkable paper boats.
Om is introduced as a precocious child and one for whom you feel an immediate sense of sympathy. His childhood is definitely not easy and the adults in his life sometimes allow their burdens to affect him from time to time. Luckily, he finds comfort in kindred souls and their wisdom and kindness. People like his Naani (maternal grandmother) who is the embodiment of comfort and solace.
On that note, I really enjoyed how each chapter in Om’s life journey included these people and relationships that ground him because they serve as the basis for his development. And semi-spoiler alert: they don’t all last. But each loss – drastically different from one another – came with its own set of opportunities for growth and Om was all the better for it. A great example would be how his Naani encourages him to view love not as binding but instead as liberating. She urges him to “let [his] journey in life be the pilgrimage from fear to love.” He later explains that idea to a lover and says the following:
[If] I say that I love you, then my love for you must be based in your growth, your evolution, in the expansion of your intelligence and perception.
Trivedi broached some heavier topics and he did so not to sensationalize them but to inspire discussion about issues that are both controversial and important. These plot moments involved themes such as abuse, marital rape, and family strife. I wish, however, that they were developed a little more and the effect on the characters who were impacted by these issues was alluded to in some way. While Om is the protagonist and his point of view is the most important, it was a little distracting to know that there were places in the plot that could have been expanded on.
Though the novel maintained a fast-paced plot that I couldn’t get enough of it also slowed down to focus on tender moments with a profound impact on Om and his relationship to those around him. It truly captures the essence of a coming-of-age novel and I’m delighted to have had the chance to grow with a character as endearing – not despite but because of his flaws – as Om.
And last but not least – the poetry. Trivedi’s writing leans generously towards the philosophical but it does so with charm and a beautiful cadence that result in passages like this one: