No, I didn’t really travel to India, but I find my reading sometimes takes on a theme and it is rarely a conscious decision on my part. One summer I found that I kept picking up books about Mormons or fundamentalist Mormon sects. Another time the subject was fish or fishing. Lately, however, it seems my subconscious keeps returning to India.
In hindsight, I suppose it started when I rented the movie Bride and Prejudice, which is a modern Bollywood retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Shortly after that, a friend sent me this video from Youtube which is politically incorrect, slightly inappropriate and has no literary ties, but it made me laugh like the dickens. Around the same time, a hold that I placed several months ago on Monica Pradhan’s The Hindi Bindi Club arrived unexpectedly (the book once was lost but now is found). Hindi Bindi tells the story of three very different women who immigrated from India to the United States and of their grown up daughters who were born and raised here. Each is working through their own issues of love, identity and family values. This is a wonderful book and would appeal to chick-lit fans, but Pradhan also manages to weave Indian culture and history seamlessly into every page while also highlighting the generational and cultural clashes between women raised in such different societies. Food plays a central role in their celebrations and encounters with each other and therefore each chapter ends with at least one recipe. (I’ve made a few of them and they’re excellent!) This book gave me wonderful insight into some of the historical events that have led up to the present day tensions between Pakistan and India and between Muslims and Hindus while still telling a warm and inviting story.
I usually have an audio book in my car, as well as having a print book at home and I frequently choose what I call a “broccoli book” for my audio books. (By “broccoli book” I mean that it is something I feel I ought to read, or that will improve me somehow, much like your mother telling you that eating broccoli will put color in your cheeks and that it’s full of vitamins.) In this instance, I’ve been meaning to read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi since it came out in 2003, but somehow it never made it to the top of my queue until I noticed the library has a copy on CD. It tells the story of an Indian boy named Piscine Molitor Patel or Pi. His father runs the zoo in Pondicherry and he decides to move the family to Canada due to the Indian political climate. The animals are sold off to zoos around the world, and the family boards a freighter that is also transporting some of the animals to Canada. The ship sinks unexpectedly and Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat with some unexpected four-legged companions for 227 days. On the surface it is a tale of survival, but it is also an amazing exploration of religion and spirituality and an allegory of the human condition. I can’t believe I waited this long to read it! (I frequently say this about ‘broccoli books.’) Pi focuses less on Indian culture or history, and more on religion, acceptance and the power of storytelling. I highly recommend this book.
I think I’ve left India for now and headed for outer space temporarily, but I just might go back when The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan by Yasmin Khan comes in.
Add comment April 14th, 2008