“Saltwater”, Shrey’s maiden novel, is about the wayward ways of the rich

Shrey's first novel “Saltwater” is about the youth in Mumbai — a city he has been living in since he was 12 years old. A graduate from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai and Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, he has published some poems earlier. His proximity to the rich and privileged young people inspired him to write the story which talks about how they are in pursuit of a “high in life” and move from “one high to another”. A corollary to this is the “death of romance among them” and also “the fast slipping away of childhood”. Parents play the role of mute spectators, and turn a blind eye as they are unable to connect with their children and have a meaningful dialogue.

The novel is based on a world he has seen from very close quarters, with, of course, liberal literary licence. Terming his real-life emotions “mixed”, the author candidly admits that a part of him was attracted to the lifestyle of the rich though he was turned off by “their rampant materialism with no room for softer emotions of life”.

Shrey says his upbringing and his family background where the young had to fend for themselves, study, pursue a career, enabled him to avoid getting sucked into the whirlpool he describes in his novel. The novel, a “critique of the lifestyle of the rich and famous”, was completed in two years. Its target audience consists of the rich and privileged and also those who watch them in awe from the fringes. The author feels that his work is bound to interest those who have neither experienced nor seen but read reports and seen pictures depicting the upwardly mobile’s expensive cars, gadgets, clothes, accessories, spacious villas and regular appearance on page 3 papers.

The characters of the story live in spacious houses, pursue foreign degrees and of course indulge in partying day in and day out with liquor, drugs and sex forming an integral part of their life. Shrey states that this strata is part of an evolving new society in which the middle-class has reached a certain level of economic prosperity such that the younger generation does not have to worry about jobs or careers. Even emotional bonding and love are ephemeral as the characters do not develop any connection, much less share dreams and aspirations, with their partners. “You are judged by who you walk in a party,” says Shrey, describing relationships as “nothing more than accessories.” Cut off from the harsher realities of life, their identification with the habitat is guided by their peers. “Issues like poverty and deprivation are immaterial since they do not have any emotional resonance with them.”

The main protagonist Rish enjoys his roller-coaster life but suffers from occasional pangs of guilt and seeks redemption, yet does not take any action whatsoever.

Shrey comments, “Rish feels that he is far removed from the crowd he is part of and more sensitive than them.” The author hopes that the youngsters will realise that “chasing highs is not a solution and that fun is not happiness”.