A rich Chekovian novel by one of the most gifted of contemporary Indian writers.’- THE NEW YORKER
And I couldn’t have agreed more on this one. This is one novel which picked up from my local library by falling in love with its title at first sight. I also happen to be a fan of Anita’s rustic A Village by the Sea. So, I only had to walk up to the librarian and get the book issued.
Anita’s delicate yarn of a tale excited me with its characteristic slow and observant attitude. The plot in simple terms is about the awakening of reality for the characters and a subtle reunion or rather peace-making. The book has powerful core of nostalgia which steers the story forward. It is essentially a family tale- about a lonely, crude woman Bimala, her sensitive and delicate sister Tara, their romantic hero of a brother Raja and Baba, an autistic sibling. Bimala resides alone in their home since childhood taking care of the autistic brother while Tara is married off happily to an NRI and Raja leaves home to pursue his passions. When the family reunites there’s much disconnect between the characters and how everything becomes one again makes the whole story.
Now what makes for the beauty of the novel though is Anita’s sharp eye and eloquent pen. I couldn’t help loving those light crisps of witty comments on nature, people, society and the like. This extract can well acquaint you with the point:
…Bim had never seen anyone so dressed. So bathed, so powdered. She seemed to be dusted all over with flour. Perhaps she had fallen into a flour bin, like a large bun. But she smelt so powerfully of synthetic flowers, it must be powder after all. And her white sari crackled with starch, like a biscuit. And her hair gleamed with coconut oil, and flecks of gold glinted at the lobes of her ear and in the ringed folds of her neck. Altogether a piece of confectionery, thought Bim.
A human being called ‘a piece of confectionery’ is something so out of the realm and undeniably original. This sense of freshness that is garnered to every mundane aspect of life drew me deeper into the book. Honesty is another parameter that keeps throbbing in me to be ticked off while I read any book. And the truthfulness with which the identity crises and the unsettled pasts of the NRI’s is handled really appeased my anger from reading several other poorly presented soups on the same issue.
The several quotes of peotry from Lord Byron’s collections, Iqbal’s royally enchanting verses provided more insight and food for thought. When I read a book it is these extra things that add richness to it. Anita seems to have a natural way of adding richness and elegance to her works. The book is Chekovian in the sense that it subtly brings to terms the reader with the tale and the tale with its proceedings. This added to the typical flavours of the Indian sub-continent made the book one idyllic read.
This is my one other favourite line from the book: An invisible cricket by her feet at that moment began to weep inconsolably.