22 January, 2021

Just A Little Savoury?

A poignant and tender tale, but one that belies its potential

Just A Little Savoury?
Anita Desai's new novel Fasting, Feasting is a fine book-but it is not a memorable one. In fact, disappointed to find that it's just one more in a long line of pleasant but unmemorable books written by Indian writers writing in English, one is tempted, not merely to review the book, but review the genre itself.

Constrained from doing that, one key question first: why has decades of Indian writing in English not thrown up a single character-barring perhaps, Mr Biswas-who lingers in the memory, who disturbs, who evokes complex responses in the reader, whose actions and fate one mulls over long after the book has regretfully been put down?

Desai's novel had the shape of one such, but she brushes over it. Fasting, Feasting is about a typical, stiflingly close-knit family in small town northern India, at the head of which presides 'MamaPapa'-a stiff image of unbending parental authority, and in an unimaginative, unintuitive sort of way, love. MamaPapa mirror each other unfailingly, that they can ever act separately, impelled by their own personalities is a sacrilege too...



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