I believe that the real worth of a book can often be measured in what you can take back from it. Sometimes, it is the emotion that you are induced with at the end of a book that refuses to leave you for quite a while and other times, it might just be a thought here or a thought there. The theme that a book follows has a lot to do with the feeling that a person is left with towards the final pages.
Here’s a list of three books (Indian, mind you!) that follow diverse themes and leave you with images as pleasant as the smell of your evening chai.
Love and Marriage
The Collector’s Wife by Mitra Phukan
Mitra Phukan’s Assamese heritage helps the book immensely as it explores a part of India which has no strong ties with English literature. The protagonist Rukmini is married to the area’s District Collector. Her life is characterized by a routine that is simple and unchanging. Set against the backdrop of the Assam Students’ Agitation of the 1970s and 1980s, the writer writes about the political turmoil, the kidnappings and the insurgencies. Rukmini’s life pervaded by the fear of violence and she feels restriction like she has never felt before. Her life is shaken from the roots as she meets Manoj, someone who shows her a world she is not familiar to as she dangerously and hopelessly falls in love in with him in the middle of a marriage that seems to be falling apart as much as the area she lives in.
Family and Relationships
Silent Raga by Ameen Merchant
Ameen Merchant tells the tale of two Tamilian, Brahmin sisters who live in a small town near Madras. Janaki, the elder one, has a knack for music and years for adventure where her talent can be showcased. Mallika, the younger one, is more tied to the family and is extremely intelligent. After their father’s untimely death, while Janaki chooses to run away and marry a “Muslim fellow”, Mallika is left with the broken pieces of the family that she struggles to bring together. While one stands for passion, the other stands for intellect. Years later, they are destined to meet at a place in their live where they are forced to make up for all the lost time. A famous, successful singer now, Janaki finally meets her office-going, independent sister in a story that is as progressive as an Indian raga.
The Sari Shop by Rupa Bajwa
Rupa Bajwa narrates the story of Ramchand, who works at the Sevak Sari House in Amritsar. This ‘sari shop’ is where the lives of the rich and the poor intersect. At this intersection, sits Ramchand, who often visits the house of the Sachdevas, where the cream of the rich and famous reside. We are introduced to vibrant characters like Rina Kapoor who attempts “a brave love marriage”. After his time and again visits to the Sachdevas’ house, Ramchand starts questioning the increased justice the rich get – the same which is denied to the poor. For a moment, he almost forgets his ‘place in society’ as he becomes increasingly disillusioned about who he really is. While this might not be the perfect debut, the author certainly succeeds in bringing this internal clash of identity in the middle of Amritsar, which again, is a city of contrasts.
After reading books like these, I am sure we often think of similar situations in our own lives – some that we are proud of and some that we would rather not talk about. As much as books have the power to make us establish this enormous connect with them, I feel it isn’t something extraordinary. After all, we all leave a piece of ourselves with someone we love, don’t we?