- Juka Fatou Jabang’s The Phoenix: The path to female liberation is via total denigration of men
- Literature in the North: A review of Mujahid Ameen Lilo’s City of Smoke
- Of flash fictions: Review of Vincent de Paul’s Flashes of Vice: Volume 1
- The mind of the child: Nilanjana Haldar’s Quiet Screams to the Quiet Healer
- Helon Habila’s Measuring Time: Africa’s history as narrative
Nilanjana Haldar’s Quiet Screams to the Quiet Healer, a moving story on parental guide, notes that children take the brunt of divided homes, Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy reviews
Most parents often make the terrible mistake of thinking their children have no mind of their own and care less about their feelings; but this is far from the truth. Children do have a mind of their own and form opinions based on their experiences and the things they see. But should this amaze parents considering that they (parents) were also once children? You will be amazed at what you, as a parent, would discover if you pry into the mind of your child.
This aspect that parents often fail to examine—the mind of the child—is the focal point of Nilanjana Haldar‘s Quiet Screams to the Quiet Healer. The novel peers into how domestic violence (especially as it affects mothers or wives), child abuse, divorce, loss of a loved one, and parents forcing their will on their children affect the psychological wellbeing of the child(ren). The novel shows that when a home is disharmonised or disintegrated, children are the most affected. Such disharmony often leaves them with a wounded heart that they may carry into adulthood, and even as their faces and attitudes silently scream for help, the adults around them are often deaf to their cries.
So Sanjana, a little girl in a small Indian village, grows up to see her mother being severely abused by her father who never misses the slightest opportunity to snap or lay his hands on the wife. Simple issues like misplacement of socks, a missing tie, or inadequate salt in the food could lead to an uproar in the household. Tired of witnessing and eavesdropping on their fights and her mother crying, Sanjana seeks escape wherever she can find it. She turns to her diary whom she personalises and discusses the many problems in her life with. She also immerses herself in her study books, and, most importantly, she relishes every opportunity spent away from home, especially with her childhood friend Kriti with whom she forms a bond and has lots of childhood adventures with. Kriti, however, has her own problem; her father is suffering from a critical kidney disease and requires a transplant which her family is too poor to afford.
The two young girls soon befriend an amiable old fellow with whom their lives would be become inextricably linked. The old fellow, Grandpa, has an almost magical way of appearing whenever the girls are in need to save them from harm. Even though the girls come to see Grandpa as their guardian angel, their parents have a different knowledge of who Grandpa is and would not want the relationship to persist.
Sanjana’s horrible experiences within her household build her courage outside her home. She soon stands to defend her friend Kriti from abuse by the teachers and would later confront her father on the way he maltreats her mother. She grows up becoming sensitive to the emotional troubles of those around her, especially children being abused or being forced against their will into what they would rather not do. She decides to dedicate her life to helping others overcome these challenges by teaching them how to confront their problems while avoiding violent confrontation.
What we will come to see much later in the story is that there is far more to Grandpa’s life than we know at the beginning of the story for Grandpa was also a victim of parental will being imposed on the children.
The novel calls for the need to initiate conversations with our children; we should be able to reason with them, peer into their thoughts and be able to examine things from their perspectives to avoid hurting their feelings. We should know that divorce deprives a child of a parent as in Vivek’s case in the novel and one parents no matter how caring cannot fill the position of the other partner.
We ought to allow our kids choose what profession they want to practise (as in the case of Aditya) or who they want to spend the rest of their lives with (as in the case of Aarav Chaddha or that of Grandpa and Mrs Navina) to avoid making their lives miserable and unfulfilled. And we certainly must avoid displaying violence before our children or abusing them if we do not want them to become introverted and seek physical and psychological escape as with the character of Sanjana. We must therefore abstain from creating pain and a life filled with future regrets for our children.
The novel is well edited and we must applaud the writer for taking time to ensure the integrity of such a lengthy novel. It is also important to pinpoint here that the novel is quite ambitious, considering that it almost ran into half a thousand pages. The writer’s insistence on providing examples for the many ways parents tamper with the precious lives of their children is most probably why the novel is this lengthy. But it is important to note that writers cannot or should not try to tell everything in one piece, focusing on too many issues often calls up unnecessary subplots that may interfere with the story’s flow and enjoyment by the reader, not excluding the fact that there will be so many loose ends.
Also, at first I believed Sanjana and Kriti’s story would take centre stage in the novel until the story progressed and left Kriti behind to focus on Sanjana and even though Kriti later walked back onto the scene, a balance could not be achieved between both characters as everything revolved around Sanjana still; perhaps it was intended to be so. So when I came to the part when Sanjana was able to establish harmony in her household by dissecting the causes of disputes and providing quick solutions to them, I felt the story had ended and was quite surprised by the sudden appearance of Grandpa on the scene. Suddenly, the denouement shifted from Sanjana to that of Grandpa and his connection to the mystery woman with the blue fire; quite a clever contrivance if I must say! Again, I think the drive towards other characters nearly made us forget the relevance of Grandpa till the final part of the novel.
Finally, the novel speaks to children, young adults, and parents. For the children, it will help them overcome the challenges of domestic violence, divorce, and abuse (although I shall not mind an abridged version for the young ones to digest). Young adults should read this to help build self will and confidence, and as they are soon to become parents themselves, it may serve as the 101 on how to treat their future children. There is a lot for parents to learn from the novel. Parents must create time for their children to study their minds and understand their beings. They should create more parents and child conversations and avoid superimposing their will on their children to avoid destroying their future. It should never be about what they want, but what makes their children happy.
Nilanjana Haldar’s Quiet Screams to the Quiet Healer is a good first offer on the altar of literature. Let’s hope she increases her plot-weaving skills and gives us even more beautiful stories than this in time to come.
© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2020