BOOK REVIEW OF- The Day before… I Died (Matryoshka in East)
BY Ashi Kalim
Paperback: 106 pages
Publisher: Notion Press; First edition (2017)
THE PLOT IN BRIEF-
Svetlana had never known pure love, till she meets Brajesh… Brajesh is a fun-loving, mischievous and caring Indian prince who visits Russia and captures Svetlana’s heart. He christens her as “”His Matryoshka.”” Once his work gets done, he leaves for India, taking Svetlana’s heart with him. Unable to forget him and confident of his love for her, Svetlana travels to India in search of her prince. Does she find him? What happens to her love? How does the international politics affect her life? Inspired by true life incidents, The Day Before… I Died narrates the love between Svetlana – daughter of the infamous dictator Josef Stalin – and Brajesh Singh, an Indian Kunwar. The murder, trails, betrayals and the hope leads to more agony.
Before beginning with anything, you must be wondering what a Matryoshka is. A Matryoshka nesting doll is a set of typically seven wooden dolls of decreasing sizes that all fit inside of each other, one by one. Each stacking doll splits in half at the mid section and opens to reveal another smaller doll nested within. The traditional Matryoshka doll is usually round in shape and decoratively painted to resemble a pretty young faced peasant woman dressed or bundled up in an extravagant sarafan costume, a loose fitting traditional Russian garment.
Now the next question that arises is that what the significance of this Matryoshka is? The shape of the Matryoshka doll is wide and full figured, much like the body of a woman who has given birth to many children. It can even be said that the Matryoshka doll’s shape is round and elongated like an egg, a popular symbol of fertility and reproduction since ancient times. Like an egg, out of the Matryoshka stacking doll life emerges in symbolic form. The biggest nesting doll births the smaller ones, just as the grandmother or babushka gives life to the younger generations of her family, symbolized through the full family of stacking dolls of decreasing sizes.
The Day before I died is a beautiful title to describe the entire plot. The essence of love, betrayal and the tinge of thrill gives the title extra fascination. Sometimes it’s only in the ecstasy of unrepressed movement that we may enter the stillness of our authentic selves. In such sacred moments, the world seems to be in step. This is why the idea of finding love across the dance floor endures — symbolizing that, when we know the true rhythm of our heart, we know the other. The title along with the plot also conveys a very beautiful message metaphorically that If I am to be fallen into love, I will. And if as a result I will appear to be stupid, disillusioned, and of poor judgment, I will. And I would be damned if I cared what other people think. For I would rather be thought of as all of these things, than not love. If in loving, I become the naked woman on the horse, I will ride that horse with my head held high. This is my spirit. I am unbreakable.
REVIEW OF THE BOOK-
The story revolves around the time of the cold war. Just to recapitulate a bit, Josef Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Communist Party from 1922 until his death in 1953. Following the death of V.I. Lenin, the first leader of Soviet Russia, Stalin managed to win complete control of the party, ruling as a dictator for the next thirty years. He led the Soviet Union through World War II and—not without justification—believed that his country made the greatest sacrifices to defeat Nazi Germany. Stalin’s absolute insistence upon Soviet domination of Eastern Europe following the war’s end was not entirely without justification; after all, Germany had invaded Russia via Eastern Europe during both World Wars, at a cost of tens of millions of Soviet lives. In Stalin’s view, only Soviet control of the nations of Eastern Europe, including East Germany, could ensure that there would not be another repeat. Americans, however, viewed Stalin’s power grab in Eastern Europe—which crushed millions of people’s dreams of self-determination—as proof of Soviet aspirations for world domination, and began to take measures to contain Soviet influence. As a consequence, the Cold War was on.
The plot very beautifully describes the love which was entangled between the two major characters of the plot- Brajesh and Svetlana’s. Sometimes the things that are felt the most are expressed between two souls over the distance and over time…where no words abide. And others may speak freely, live with one another freely, express themselves freely– just like everyone else, but then there is you… you have no words for proof of reassurance, no tokens of professed love, but you have something. Something that is worth keeping.
Keeping the main plot aside, we do know how women were treated during Stalin’s reign. The Bolsheviks wanted to recreate society completely, creating an ideal world where all people were equal. This notion of equality included women, who up until this point, were limited to domestic work. Now women were expected to be a part of the workforce outside of their homes. Their roles within the family also changed with new Soviet policies. According to the Bolsheviks, women would gain independence from the traditional roles they had played in the past.
Particularly under Stalin’s regime, this ideal woman did not turn out exactly as planned. Instead of creating gender neutrality, women were not treated equally under the new laws. The attempts to create a new womanhood did change the way women were expected to behave, but they did not necessarily become the equal of their male counterparts. Also, not all of the changes that the Bolsheviks wanted took place. The Bolshevik idea of the “new family” did not take effect during Stalin’s time. Women were not freed from their roles as domestic leaders; in fact they now were forced to play a larger role at both work and at home. All of this led to a new type of womanhood, which was not necessarily what the Bolsheviks had wanted, but nonetheless was a major change for Soviet women.
And this is where the concept of Matryoshka gets connected with the plot and the progress of the story line. In Russian, the word matryoshka literally means “little matron” and is also a familiar shortening of the common name Matryona or Matriosha, popular names among the female peasantry of old Russia. The Latin root word of Matryoshka is mater, which means “mother.” Motherhood, family and fertility all influence the meaning and significance of the Russian nested doll. Having a large and close knit family is common and even important in traditional Russian culture, with many generations and extended relatives playing an active role in the family dynamic, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The Matryoshka doll is a symbol of the Russian babushka, a strong female matriarch and a central figure in the Russian family.
Brajesh and Svetlana, both were from two different worlds. Two entirely different people. But upon their coming together, they created- they found- their own path and together they had their own world and in their own world, they were the same. Everyone else outside of it- everyone else was over there, away. And they together- they together were here. They were right here. They were the same.
But amidst of everything, Brajesh travels back to India. And what happens to Svetlana? We know from the bottom of our heart and with all of it, that it doesn’t matter if at the end of your life you can say that you shared the best of yourself with the rest of the world and it doesn’t matter if everyone in the world remembers you as wonderful; but what matters is if at the end of your life you can say that you shared the best of yourself with the handful of people who are around you, that you gave the wonderful in you, to the people you love and who love you. Happiness never has and never will come from fame.
I think the strangest thing that exists, is how there are seven billion people on the planet and yet, so many people can spend their whole lives looking for somebody to love and never, ever find that. There are so many things that we can find in other people— friendship, learning processes, enrichment— so many things, nevertheless, the most elusive and fragile of all the things we can possibly find in another human being, is love. To be the one that someone loves and for that person to be the one that you love. Why is this difficult to find? My answer is that, because out of the seven billion, there really is only one. You don’t find something and make it work; you find the one and when you do, you work until it works. The problem is finding the one. Many, many people are born and die never finding that.
The plot is mixed with several emotions. And to discover each and every bit of it, you need to read the book once. And not only emotions, the book metaphorically speaks about various aspects of social customs, ideology and facts.
Please order your copies from
Because the plot is inspired from true events.
YOU SHOULD READ THIS BECAUSE-
THE BEAUTIFUL EMOTIONAL PLOT.
THE BEAUTIFUL POTRAYAL OF LOVE KEEPING THE THRILL IN THE BACKGROUND.
THE CHARECTARISATION OF BOTH Brajesh and Svetlana.
THE BEAUTIFUL POEMS INETWEEN THE PLOT.
Overall I would like to rate the book 45 on a scale of 50.
4 stars out of 5
Originality of the plot and sub plots- 9/10
Net emotions in the story- 9/10
Usage of words and phrases-9/10
The title, cover and the illustration-9/10
The net impact on the readers- 9/10
Overall, it’s worth reading.