My aunt recommended this book. Given that we have so many books that we like in common, I was waiting to get hold of it.
Two Tamilian Brahmin families, in two different parts of India, in 1930s British Colonial India, bound by a common destiny.
Rajam and Dharmu were both child brides, unaware of the life awaiting them. Rajam’s husband, Partha, fell in love with her at first sight, and engineered their marriage. For all the love that he bestowed on her, she had to bear the brunt of a mother-in-law from hell. Nothing she did could please her mother-in-law, and her childless state was the worst testimony of her failure as a daughter-in-law and wife, in her mother-in-law’s eyes, even if her husband was not bothered by it. The harder she tried, the more difficult her life became.
Dharmu, brought up in a village in Tamilnadu, is suddenly transported into a totally different world after she gets married. Her husband, Mahadevan, a sophisticated, London returned civil servant, lived a very different, Western life in East Bengal. In the middle of the political unrest and uncertainty, Dharmu tries hard to fit in. Sadly, no matter what she did, she could feel herself lacking. Right from her manners, her English, to the food that her husband insisted on. Everything was alien, and nothing seemed to elevate her loneliness and unhappiness. Things which were strictly forbidden growing up, now becomes things that she has to do, in order to fit into the society that her husband moves in. Her only joy in life was her little son, born after two daughters. Her casual neglect of her daughter, never even occurred to her, because, after all, they were just daughters, meant to be brought up and sent away to their marital home.
Unknown to both these families, the blooming lotus, would have a significance to both these families.
I really enjoyed the style of the author. She transports you to that era, effortlessly. Sights, smells, experiences, everything. You could be Rajam or Dharmu’s neighbour, witnessing them, going about with their lives. Their day to day lives, along with those around them. The story is woven with the traditions, practices and rules that bound the men and women of that time. Things that they accepted as part of life. The characters are really well-fleshed out. You feel Rajam’s frustration, and her determination to do her best, Dharmu’s loneliness and empathize with their situation. Even smaller characters like Dharmu’s maid, or the village untouchables are so well integrated into the story, that the book is a wonderful read, a sliver of life in a different time.
There is a fair sprinkling of Tamil words through the book, which just brings out the flavour of the book. I think it is books like these that capture an older time(good or bad), for when most of us would have forgotten it. And that, I think is what I really loved about the book.
If you like fiction of this sort, an olden era brought to life, you are sure to like this one. I would definitely recommend this book.