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By Nivedita Giri

Title: Don't Look Down; Author: Karishma Attari; Publisher: Penguin India; Pages: 282; Price: Rs. 299


What would you do if you had a secret to hide? A past you don't want to delve into?

What if there are problems in life which you want to resolve but are unable to share even with the person with whom you are the closest? How many more lies are you going to utter to save the "lie" you are living every day? How far would you go to keep the secret from getting revealed and hurting your dear ones?

Karishma Attari, in her chilling cohesive sequel "Don't Look Down" has generously retained the horror, spunk and anticipation alive through the narrative as her main theme. Alia Khanna, the daughter of a famous superstar, battles her mysterious life and its consequences with a new fervor and responsibilities no matter how hard it gradually becomes to keep her away from succumbing to temptation.

"Don't Look Down", the second half of "I See You" begins with Alia celebrating her 18th birthday, which is just "a number" for her, with her college friends but clearly understands that something in her past would haunt her in the long run.

While Alia is about to cut the birthday cake, she says to her boyfriend: "I've never believed in omens before but the birthday cake felt like a prophecy of the End I was doing everything to try and forget about."

The protagonist once again tries her best to lead a normal life, resolving boyfriend problems of teenhood and romance, getting along with her girl pals, thereby keeping aside the dilemma of her dual life.

She no longer has the urge to sleep, drink or even define human limitations. At the same time, the eerie atmosphere of her house reminds her of things from the past that she would rather not think about.

Alia is able to find and use a loophole to keep the supernatural elements or 'the devil' from easily satisfying all her wants and desires at the cost of taking her soul to the underworld.

Throughout the novel, Attari portrays her heroine to be a fighter, as Alia struggles with a supernatural dose of despair and manages to keep her humanity intact. Despite youth, beauty, wit, money and a tough spirit, the larger than life portrayal of Alia's character longs to lead a normal life.

"I have never had a brush with the supernatural. It is safe to say that the plot lines are entirely fictionalised. However, much else is part of lived experience. I already know how my characters sound and the funny quirks they have, for example, the way someone blinks, or leans in and winks or uses absurd lingo -- these are all inspired by people I've come across", Attari told IANS in an email interview.

Attari emphasises that you make your own destiny. Your choices define you far more than your circumstances. Every choice, even inaction makes you, so be aware that going with the flow or doing what is inevitable is not a virtue.

In the end, one can empathise by being scared and wish Alia good luck for her encounters with the evil and dark forces of the netherworld.


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