10 May, 2021

A Bit Of Austen Auntie

The charm of this gentle satire of social mores is the sense it generates that these are her people, their hopes and tragedies are her own.

R. Prasad
A Bit Of Austen Auntie
Imagine Jane Austen in salwar kameez and chunni. Instead of horse-and-carriages, you have rickshaws; instead of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, there is Gurjeet (a.k.a. Croaky) and Karuna; but the social climbing is remarkably similar as is the centrality of love and marriage. Like Austen, Neel Kamal Puri is all too aware of the limited choices available to women in the society under her lens. To wed or not to wed is hardly the question. Whom to wed—where is he from, where is he going, and what are his expectations—those are more to the point. Like 18th-century Bath, Patiala in the early ’80s has its fair share of eccentric aunts and social-climbing parents anxious to find suitable boys for their daughters. But Puri’s young women—Karuna and Minnie—have their sights set on wider horizons.

Against a backdrop of terrorism and sectarian hate, Puri’s characters go about their daily business: families bicker, people fall in and out of love, characters leave the town and are drawn irresistibly back. Stealing the limelight from her central characters—the quartet of cousins...

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