“The Part I Left With You” by Rahul Saini is a funny and heartwarming novel that contemplates on the question – Does the meaning of love change over time?
In the novel, a young, starry-eyed Ratna finds herself at the doorstep of her favourite author, Ronit Sukhdev, and a little white lie lands her the opportunity to stay at his place for a few days.
But Ronit, devastated by his break-up with Nitasha, has stopped writing, even as Nitasha tries to move on from her past and is on a quest to make sense of her life choices.
Read an excerpt (that has been lightly edited) from the book below.
Nitasha turns the key, twists the doorknob and pushes the door open.
She enters her apartment and jumps. Someone is sitting on a chair in the living room. What the . . . how is this possible? Should she run out and call the cops? Who is it? She takes a moment and realizes that whoever is on the chair resembles her. Before she could ask ‘Who the hell are you?’, the figure on the chair speaks.
‘Don’t be shocked, it’s just me – the part of yourself that you leave behind when you are gone.’
Does Nitasha even know what’s going on? Does she even understand?
‘I am the scent that remains when you leave. I am the spirit that stays after you are gone. I am the part of you that will only die with the death of all the people who know you.’
After a short pause, the figure continues, ‘And as ironic as it is, I am all the people you have ever known. For you are all the people you have ever known. The world around you, the people, they make you. And that’s what I am. And that’s what you are.’
Nitasha stares back at the figure, unsure what to feel.
As she stands there trying to comprehend what is happening, the figure on the chair starts shimmering. It flickers and jumps from one form to another. At one instant it resembles her, then it’s her ex-boyfriend, then it’s Vikas, then it’s her mother, then her brother, then her childhood friend, then her dog who passed away two years ago, then her father and then it turns into her again.
‘Why are you here?’ Nitasha asks. She doesn’t even know why she asked the question.
‘One answer to your question is, I am here because you left me here. Another answer is, I am here because you have been trying to look at yourself, wanting to know what’s going on in your mind, why you are doing what you are doing.’
‘Okay, so tell me.’
‘I can’t tell you anything. I am your shadow. You can only look at me to see your own self. But I can’t “tell” you anything the way you want me to.’ And just then the figure turns into her physics teacher from school. ‘No more spoon-feeding for you now! You are a grown-up! Learn to find out things on your own! You will soon finish your exams and go to college, no one’s going to spoon-feed you then. You will fail and they’ll kick you out if you don’t learn to do things on your own.’
And you will learn to figure out everything in life, you just have to keep at it, a voice echoed in Nitasha’s head.
‘You . . . you are someone from my past . . .’
‘I am neither someone else, nor am I someone from your past. I am you. Your past, your present, your future, all of that, it’s all you. It’s all one. All the people that you have met in your entire life, everyone that you have ever loved or hated or even been indifferent to, they are all a part of you. You can’t look at yourself as something that’s separate from them. You can’t turn away from your past, present or future. Attempt that and you will only end up tearing yourself apart. Your past and everyone you have ever met is what you are made of. Accept that. Try to erase any of that and you will only end up erasing your own self.’
Nitasha hears a phone beeping. The figure on the chair pulls out a phone from its pocket and says, ‘Shit, I got to go.’ The figure begins to fade away and then disappears completely, but the beeping continues.
Nitasha forces her eyes open and fumbles for her phone. It’s the morning alarm she had set. It is her own phone beeping. It is all a dream – it had to be.
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