Name: The Girl In The Red Lipstick
Author: Ajay K Pandey
Publisher: Shristi Publishers
Release Date: 13 August 2021
“We are all social animals, perhaps more animal than social”
– Arun, The Girl In The Red Lipstick
Ajay and Lalita are two people from two different worlds. Ajay is a best selling author, Lalita is a victim of human trafficking. When Ajay meets Lalita for the first time, little did he know that life would take him on a path he never imagined. Grappling with his own broken life, financial crunch and constant effort that it takes to be an author, he finds Lalita’s courage and determination an eye opener. Lalita has nothing to lose, so when help is offered to her, to save herself, she jumps at the opportunity, after all she has endured the worst. Ajay finds his story in Lalita, but more than that, he finds himself risking everything for her, even his life, why? He wants to help her, he wants to save her, but will it be that easy?
The Girl in the Red Lipstick is a charming story of friendship, life and finding love where we least expect to.
The story begins with Arun travelling to the City of Dreams, Kolkata. There, at a book launch Arun suffers a fall which leaves him in pain. To alleviate the pain, Arun hires a masseuse to come to his room. Enters Lalita, the protagonist of the story. Initially, there’s nothing that Arun finds attractive in her. She gives him a massage, empties his mini bar, gets paid, and leaves. But there is this one question that keeps popping up everywhere he goes “Why don’t you write about the life of a prostitute?”- to which Arun has no response. When Arun hires Lalita for the second time, that is when he sees something in her- a story worth listening to.
The foundation of the story in itself is not unique. A guy sympathises with a prostitute and strives to help her. But this story by Ajay K Pandey definitely stands out, mainly because of the simplicity with which it is narrated. There’s no over the top dialogues, excessive description or unnecessary exaggerations. The narration is similar to how two people would talk in real life and that’s what makes reading the book a realistic experience. The 200 plus page book incorporates 3 povs’- Arun, Lalita and Kajal each putting forth their understanding of the situation they are in. There are also backstories that lead to the current point in a character’s life.
The entire book progresses at a subtle pace- not too fast so as to make it look rushed nor too slow that one might be bored. At times, it takes unexpected turns, like when Vishal, Arun’s best friend enters the scene. You would expect the involvement of a police officer will turn the story into a different angle, but it doesn’t. Even when Kajal makes an appearance, the expectation is that of a full blown drama but what follows is a finely drawn unfolding of events leading up to the climax.
Now, talking about the characters themselves- Arun and Kajal don’t come across as anything special. Their actions, their decisions and their thought process are more or less similar to any other sensible person in their situation. But it is Lalita’s character that appears under-developed. It falls short of the impact it could have had. Her troubles, though profound, come across as bland; like a passing statement that doesn’t require attention. Arun’s reaction to Lalita’s life and her subsequent outlook on life don’t leave a deep impression. But there’s one aspect of the way Lalita is written that is commendable- her faith in herself and her determination. Her dreams, her hopes, her aspirations- all of them incite a longing to see her wishes fulfilled. At one point, she is like any normal girl you meet, and not a prostitute. If this is what the author aimed for- to change a reader’s understanding of a girl from a red-light area right in the middle of the story, then Kudos for the masterstroke!
The title of the book gives away the story and for the most part, you think you know the story. Turns out you don’t. The book completely changes direction in the last few chapters. The author does not delve deeply into society’s treatment of a sex worker which would have generalised the narrative, and which is also something that is available in plenty, but he carefully explores the feelings and emotions of two close knit people and makes us realise the entire truth.
For the Fans of Ajay K Pandey who are familiar with his book, no doubt they would be eager to get their hands on The Girl in the Red Lipstick. But for those who are new to his work, this book is worth every minute spent reading.
LitGleam Rating ⅘