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Wonderful Realisation of Romance: Shikha Khanduja Kaul's Hidden Husband
Shikha Khanduja Kaul's Hidden Husband is wonderful fictional narrative that attempts to offer a wonderful mingling of Romance and Reality. There is no such thing as seeing stars in the smile of a beloved, or the beloved discovering an angel in the look of the lover. The events happen as if we are living our daily round of life in the dullest ever way.

But, beneath the narrative of deceptive simplicity, there is the wonderful focus on romance and mishaps in romance and more strangely on marriage and conjugal life frictions  between the two lovers from two different cultures reminiscent of Chetan Bhagat's Half Girlfriend. The smooth flow of narration is just superb. .

Shikha  Khanduja Kaul's  Hidden Husband ( ISBN 978-9384-382-070  ) published by  Gargi Publishers (Bijnor,2015) priced at Rs. 195/- has an aphoristic  subtitle  'Some Secrets Never Leave You'. A wonderful story on love entanglement in life, the novel keeps the readers engaged from the first sentence to the last. 

Shikha Khanduja Kaul is a wonderful writer and she knows the magic of weaving a multi-dimensional tale with plethora of ideas jam-packed into the fictional frame.  The storyline is quite interesting. Aisha is trapped in her own secret, which makes her life hell. Her love for Raghav is true. But hailing from two very different cultures is the basis of their continued friction. Aisha is a Punjabi girl from Gurgaon and Raghav a Bihari from Ranchi. Raghav's family will certainly not accept a girl from outside their community. And yet, he continues giving her false hopes through his efforts and promises. And then they take a step which entangles her life further.

The authoress nurtures the mystery till the end if she will be able to manage to come out of this quandary or she must continue to live in her self-created web. A feminist treatise all around, the novel very artistically explores the atrocities committed on women in the Indian society and the tough decisions taken by her as a married woman. Here Shikha Kaul goes beyond Chetan Bhagat's Half Girlfriend theme as she gives the story a new dimension. The end of the novel is like the last page of a detective novel where all solutions are usually given.

The first person narrative of Hidden Husband is pregnant with beautiful expressions. One such passage is where the termination of marriage is described: "It was February, the thirteenth, a day before the Valentine's Day and my birthday too. 'I hereby grant you the termination of your marriage, effective starting today' the judge said as he handed over our divorce decree to us. I died a hundred deaths that moment "(P.197). There is a wonderful letter written to the Prime Minister where she expresses concern about terrorism and so called jihad: "I am just a common citizen of your country, worried about the future of our nation , as much as you care. It is not about particular religion that I belong to which I wish to favour in this letter." (208). The letter ends with the signatory as 'a victim to religion'. In very few novels of recent times, the writer uses the theme for love story. The irony was expressed through the words of Raghav "No Chandigarh or London wala can take you from me' though  on the wedding day of 8th December Raghav had one day before married a different girl. Asha was married to a new man, Sameer.

The conflict caused by the shift in choice of husband from the lover is beautifully expressed: "My love for Raghav was still there but it was piled up in some corner of my heart and mind and was not going to pop up again. This is the crux of the hidden husband issue in the novel.  Sameer had also a girl friend called Lizzy and when Asha told him that she is pretty, Sameer so candidly confessed: "Yes, she was good in bed too".

'Then why did you leave her?' She asked to which Samieer replied: "I never loved her. She was not you." (224-5). What a confusion here! The woman who loved a different man is loved by a man who never loved his ex-girlfriend. The main twist of the story comes towards the end of the book where readers come to know that Asha carries the child of Sameer and in a short time she will be back to Sameer's arms She realised that "He was a perfect husband and a perfect father" The repentance came: "I was a perfect  mother, just never could become a perfect wife." 

The authoress very well depicted in a few words the psychological trauma of a woman who had her ex boy friend.  But it is true "There's a thin line between the best and the perfect". Her husband is at last the best friend of her's. The last page of the novel is anti-climax after this climax when she saw the toe rings worn by Shreyas on the tenth birthday which Raghav earlier gifted to her before marriage with Sameer. There was no guilt. Just a regret-but whether it was for having married him once or losing him, I was still unsure about."

What a wonderful finish is given to this novel when her son Shreyas fell in love with Priya and the surprise of surprise is that Priya's father was no other person than her own ex-lover Raghav. The title 'Hidden Husband' is so appropriate. How the authoress celebrates her love story in spite of the failure to make it consummated in marriage. The romantic love conquers all even in coincidence.

Shikha Kaul is an Indian author and she cannot leave the Indian ethos in spite of all the modernity in her approach to love. Her debut fiction is a story of a glorious failure of romantic love because she has to remember the realities of life prevailing in Indian society. 

A person from science stream writing a story so beautifully managing a complicated plot is really wonderful to meet in this novel. C.J Redwine once told, "No matter what has happened. No matter what you've done. No matter what you will do. I will always love you. I swear it."

This remains the spirit of 'Hidden Husband' all throughout the wonderful narrative. Cover design by Ammol Karambe is really brilliant and gives the thematic aspect a new edge.

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