Image Credit: plodit
Here I am, back from a wonderful and refreshing break in China! I am glad to be back to reading and the blogworld and one of the first things I did on my return was to join a library. And I can’t tell you how good it feels! It’s been ages since I have been inside a library. Instead, all these years I chose to buy books to add to my precious collection or just borrow from friends. The reason being there were no libraries near my house. The one I have joined now is not exactly near, but it’s not far to put me off either.
The very first book I chose to borrow was Amulya Malladi’s “The Mango Season.” At first glance it looks like chick lit but the issues that Malladi tackles within puts the book far beyond that genre. But first, a brief description.
Priya Rao left India for higher studies in the US and chose to stay back. In the meantime, she met Nick, began dating him, living with him and even got engaged. But all without her parents’ knowledge. Now, Priya is coming to India for a two week vacation and also to break the big news to her highly traditional and orthodox family. How is Priya going to manage holding on to her love while not losing the love of her family?
This is the fine line that Priya walks through the novel. Malladi brings out all the frustrations in such a situation. Priya’s family is waiting to get her married to a “nice Indian boy” and even play with her grandchildren. With such high expectations, Priya finds that life has become claustrophobic. She constantly reminisces about happy moments that she had with her family in the past, like stealing out to pluck pomegranates with her grandfather.
Malladi deftly juxtaposes these happy memories with Priya’s present, filled with terrifying thoughts of her family disowning her. Though Priya’s confusion and constant nervousness is at times a bit annoying to the reader, it is also quite real. I personally know families that live in a similar milieu – very traditional and orthodox and where the girls have to be married latest by the age of 23. To that end, I must say Malladi has done a wonderful job of sketching the harassed mother who does not understand why Priya turns down a handsome “boy” who is earning well, the patient father, quiet in his ways but worried nevertheless or Priya’s aunt who, unmarried at 30 is considered a burden on the family. Priya’s family’s concept of a marriage is based on education and wealth while for Priya, love and understanding means a lot more. This is the case with many in today’s India as well and some of the thoughts voiced by Priya’s mother could very well be told by people I know!
Malladi also portrays the intricate world of family politics, particularly in a joint family. There is competition, jealousy, care and love all bundled together.
So for many reasons in my opinion, The Mango Season cannot be relegated to chick lit but rises above that. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. It’s not without its faults though. As I said, at times you feel like telling Priya to just forget it and get it over with. And the interspersing of recipes in a book is by now a very familiar method of storytelling, which was not really needed here. Many readers found fault with this particular dialogue that Priya says, “I gave him a look reserved for the retarded.” I agree with their discomfort. It is indeed a sensitive statement and perhaps should not have been worded that way. Also, the little twist in the end was uncalled for and I think Priya should have been completely honest with her folks.
Yet, the book must be read for a good insight into the workings of a traditional Indian family. And even today India has plenty of those.
Verdict: A fast paced read that gives an interesting look into India