Book Review: ‘The Helicopters are Down’ by Indira Parthasarathy

Embracing the Skies of Self-Discovery: A Journey Through Midlife, Regret, and Renewal


Book Title: The Helicopters Are Down
Author: Indira Parthasarathy
Translated By: Andy Sundaresan
Publisher: Hachette India
Number of Pages: 176
ISBN: 978-9393701831
Date Published: Jul. 17, 2023
Price: INR 382

The Helicopters Are Down by Indira Parthasarathy Book Cover

Book Review

Set against the backdrop of Delhi in the early 1970s, “The Helicopters Are Down” by Indira Parthasarathy, translated into English by Andy Sundaresan, delves into the intricate emotional landscape of its protagonist, Amirtham, a middle-aged government official grappling with a profound midlife crisis. This evocative novel embarks on a poignant journey through Amirtham’s life as he confronts his dissatisfaction with his marriage, his career, and the overarching sense of monotony that envelops his existence.

The plot is intriguing when Amirtham’s path crosses with that of Bhanu, a young and vibrant theatre actress. Unlike Amirtham’s restrained and lackluster life, Bhanu embodies a zest for life, radiating beauty and vitality. Amirtham finds himself irresistibly drawn to her, and they become trapped in a confused affair. Bhanu resembles Nitya, who was his lady love back in the past before getting married to his cousin, Thilakam. However, the foundation of their relationship is fragile, built on the shaky ground of illusions and dreams that are detached from the harsh realities of life.

As the story unfolds, Amirtham’s desperation escalates. To reclaim his fading youth, he succumbs to the temptations of alcohol, promiscuity, and gambling. Paradoxically, these endeavors intensify his feelings of emptiness and inadequacy. Gradually, he realizes that his efforts to rewrite the past and recapture his youthful vigor are futile. He confronts the irrevocable nature of time and the limitations of age. His wife, Thilakam, is a simple woman who puts on a forced mask of a middle-aged woman for many reasons. One of the vital reasons is though Amritham and Thilakam have been married for 12 years, they have no kids. Somewhere Thilkam’s demeanor gets ruptured for not being enjoyed motherhood.

The Helicopters Are Down” serves as an intelligent exploration of several profound themes:

  • Midlife Crisis: The midlife crisis is a period of self-reflection and transition that often occurs between the ages of 40 and 60. It is a time of self-doubt, anxiety, and depression that some people experience during their mid-life years. While the idea of a midlife crisis being an inevitable reality doesn’t hold much weight, some of us face new stressors as we enter these years. Depending on your circumstances and outlook, it can be a stressful and confusing time. But midlife can also be a time of self-discovery and growth. Amirtham embodies the quintessential midlife crisis archetype in this connection—an individual grappling with disillusionment and yearning for renewal. His experiences epitomize the challenges faced by those caught in midlife turmoil. His past keeps taunting him, and his behavior with his wife, Thilakam, often derails.
  • Regret: Amirtham’s inner turmoil is further fueled by the weight of his guilt. He grapples with the knowledge that his life hasn’t aligned with his aspirations and harbors remorse for his choices in his earlier years. His regret after Bhanu shames him for his act when he takes her to a hotel room is written well.
  • Self-Discovery: Throughout the narrative, Amirtham’s journey mirrors a process of self-discovery. As he navigates the complexities of his desires, mistakes, and limitations, he undergoes a transformative experience that allows him to reevaluate his priorities and find solace.

Indira Parthasarathy’s novel provides readers with a poignant and reflective exploration of the human psyche. It delves into the essence of existence, unveiling the intricate layers of identity and the universal quest for meaning. As the story unfolds, readers are confronted with the poignant realization that time’s passage is inevitable and that true fulfillment lies in the acceptance of one’s own imperfections and embracing life’s transient nature.

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In conclusion, “The Helicopters Are Down” is a masterfully crafted narrative that invites readers to delve into the complexities of the human experience. Through Amirtham’s journey, the novel becomes a mirror reflecting the universal struggles of a midlife crisis, regret, and the profound pursuit of self-understanding. Parthasarathy’s eloquent prose and perceptive storytelling render this novel a timeless exploration of the human condition, leaving an indelible imprint on those who venture within its pages. The climax of the story is exciting. Kudos to translator Andy Sundaresan for translating this story and keeping its soul intact as in the original

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