Book Review: Zahir Chauhan's ‘The Girl I Met That Night’ is a page turner from start to finish

A Potpourri of Vestiges Book Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

The 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi famously said, “What you seek is seeking you.” In other words, the things you desire are seeking you in the same way you are seeking them. Zahir Chauhan’s latest novel ‘The Girl I Met That Night’ perfectly captures the essence of Rumi’s saying. The story’s protagonist Kabir Shergill shifts from Manali to Mumbai to make a mark for himself and soon with his talent, hard work and some luck, he climbs the ladder of success as he starts working with one of the top advertising agencies of India. Leading a lavish lifestyle in Mumbai while living in a stylish house in the posh suburbs of Mumbai and driving a BMW, Kabir now has everything he ever dreamt of. But his life changes forever when one fateful night he meets a beautiful girl named Anamika.

Right from the onset, Kabir is drawn to the mysterious Anamika as if he were always destined to meet her. Stuck in the middle of a highway while returning from Darjeeling, the two decide to narrate each other a story of their own lives in order to kill the time. But Anamika puts one condition. She agrees to tell her story to Kabir on the condition that once the night is over Kabir would neither ask anything further nor will ever try to find her. That their story would end right there once the night is over. Kabir agrees to her condition and Anamika keeps her promise and narrates her rather disturbing tale. And, as soon as the night is over, Anamika leaves as per the agreement.

But Kabir cannot get over Anamika’s story and decides to break his promise. He tries to look for her but months pass by and he doesn’t get a single clue about her. Ultimately their paths cross again and to his surprise Anamika also recognizes him. They spend a day together in Mumbai as Anamika further talks about the dark story she had narrated that night at the highway and how her life has been over the years. Knowing her now, Kabir gets really attached to Anamika but before he could do anything to express feelings for her, the next morning she disappears again. Who is Anamika? What’s her truth? Where has she disappeared? What is so mysterious about this girl that is forcing Kabir to look for her everywhere?

‘The Girl I Met That Night’ takes us on a whirlwind adventure from Mumbai to Darjeeling to Bangkok to Manali to Ladakh as Kabir relentlessly keeps searching for Anamika. Zahir has crafted a tale of love bordering on obsession that anyone who has ever fallen in love would be relate to at one level or the other. Every time Kabir and Anamika meet in the novel, Zahir’s penmanship appears to be at its best. Their second encounter in Mumbai during which Kabir takes Anamika to Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir is easily the highlight of the novel. Also, the beautiful love story of Bakhtawar and Maithili whom Anamika come across in Thailand deserve a special mention. Not to mention the haunting dream sequence in the beautiful hills of Manali. Love stories are full of clichés and ‘The Girl I Met That Night’ is no exception but the constant twists and turns make it a page turner from start to finish.

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A version of this book review was first published in The Daily Guardian.

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