Winter vacations had just begun, which meant I could get up way past the usual 7:30 am routine.Like no good thing comes for free, vacations came with lots of homework. But, I was in no mood to open any books for the first few days of my new-found freedom. While mum was busy preparing dinner, I sat with my grandfather trying to understand the dynamics of his early life. We used to engage in such sessions quite often. With his life-stories, I used to be transported into a different era, a wonderland of sorts. Those tales were far more interesting than any fairytale. While, I knew every fairytale would end with a happily-ever-after, the same could not be said for every incident that my grandfather narrated. Sometimes, it was a happy story, sometimes a hard hitting one with a lesson, sometimes a fun tale, sometimes stories which brought out how the times have changed. The tales were based out of different places all over India which my grandfather had travelled to, for work or pleasure. Those stories came back to me when I picked up Amit Sharma‘s False Ceilings.
False Ceilings is not a story, it is a saga. It is a tale of a family spanning through generations and how deeds of one generation affect the future of another. It is a story of a secret which lives on, in-spite it’s keepers being mere mortals. It is a story of the past, the present and the future and how they are all attached by a single string. This one takes you to the pre-independence era in a chapter and back to the future with the next, but never lets you get too comfortable anywhere. Before you know, you’re uprooted from 1940s and planted into 2045. These time-travels continue through the length of the book and make you think. It all begins with an If-Else statement and the reader is encouraged to apply the same with a very clever narration. It is almost impossible to not jump the gun and try to arrive at conclusions but even these conclusions are momentary.
There is no central character, rather an array of characters with their own stories who are fighting their individual battles in a larger scheme of things. Each character gets to play the central character for a while and by this way Amit has made sure that we get to know each one of them like they know themselves. These characters seem to be disarrayed in the beginning, like branches of a tree growing in different directions but slowly and steadily, it all starts making sense. There is just enough information about a character that Amit provides to take the story forward, but the reader’s mind is always doing two things – reading the story as well as guessing how and where the character would finally fit. The book needs your entire attention or you’ll miss an important detail and not connect to the story anymore. Amit holds your attention very cleverly, giving out what is necessary and holding back on everything else for later.
The story keeps oscillating between Dalhousie and Delhi, of old times, present and future and we get to see an interesting scheme of things. These cities are not just where the story is based, but are more or less, characters themselves. Delhi and Dalhousie are the strings which keep the story together for the reader. They are very important pieces of a jigsaw that False Ceilings is. It is rare that a city plays such a pivotal role in a story, but here you can’t underestimate the importance of either of the two. They are like characters with a mind of their own and keep the story interesting. There were times when the traveler in me wanted to pack my bags and head to Dalhousie and see for myself it’s eternal snow clad beauty.
Through a span of almost a century, through multiple people and places, through stories within stories, the book keeps the reader engaged. It expects a certain level of concentration, and rightly so. Pick this one up for a peep into the past, to get to re-live stories that your grandparents told of an era when things were simple and uncomplicated, as well for a deep dive into what the future could be. We are inching towards the future Amit has created in the book, and we all have in some way or the other, lived the past that brought us where we are, with its true as well as false ceilings.
The book is highly recommended for the fact that it creates a story which is timeless in-spite time periods playing a pivot to the whole saga. Go ahead, buy the book.