A nice and respectable South Indian family comprising of Avi, the rich father who loves and cares for his daughters more than anything in the world, Saroja, the excellent home maker and cook, who loves her husband and family but fails to win their respect because she is constantly nagging them about what they should have done or could have done. There is also the strong-as-rock factor, Vasu, who is the grandmother, a strong woman who made bold choices that her daughter, Saroja does not forgive her for.
Their two daughters are Shobha and Devi, as different from each other as chalk and cheese. Shobha is the supposedly perfect daughter, wife and professional. A VP at the age of 30 years, her loveless marriage and inability to have children taunts her from within day by day, making her hate everything and everyone in the process. In particular, she feels frustrated that she has to keep working hard at being perfect and poised for her parents and for the whole world because she had never done differently.
As written: “But sometimes when you wore a mask for a very long time, it became your face. And Shobha had worn the mask of a strong woman for so long, no one including her, bothered to look beneath it to see the fragile mess she was in.”
With an ability to rebel, question and do unspeakable things, Devi, whose attitude is so much like her grandmother’s, turns life upside down for everyone in her family when she attempts to commit suicide. Her family forgets their differences and rally around her, trying to give her a reason to live life with zeal, like before. The one thing that frightens them all is that Devi stops talking after “the incident” as they called her suicide attempt.
Instead, she begins cooking with such passion that her family begins to relish their dinner gatherings more than ever before. Every recipe is a traditional one that Devi questions, probes and modifies. Every dish Devi creates becomes a reflection of her emotions that she battles within. It becomes her way of communicating with her family members. For example, she serves the piping hot and spicy rasam with delectable pastry, leaving everyone clamoring for more. Each family member begins to see Devi’s life in their own personalized contexts and eventually, the grandmother’s death brings them closer to each other despite their differences with Devi. Ultimately, they all want her to live and not die.
And this is the poignant note that Devi writes about the grandmother she was closest to:
“I wish I was kinder…I wish she lived. Death is final. Beyond it, nothing lies. No dreams, no future, no tomorrow. Death lives in all our tomorrows. Saying goodbye is never easy to some one who is already gone….My love for her is beyond tomorrow, beyond today, and beyond forever.”
Some books are great because they have great stories to tell, others are great because they have great characters who have simple, unforgettable tales to share. This book, authored by Amulya Malladi, captures the best blend of both, fine written and logically structured, with the right dash of suspense, family drama and an authentic Indian feel to it.