24 November, 2020

Trunk Calls

A novel set in India that has the hallmarks of what I would call the Indian Wedding Rock Opera genre.

Trunk Calls
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Alice Albinia’s first book, Empires of the Indus, was a wonderfully well-observed travelogue set in Pakistan. Her second book is a novel set in India and has the hallmarks of what I would call the Indian Wedding Rock Opera genre. Surprise ingredients in the otherwise familiar mix of doomed lovers, unlikely couplings and multi-generational conflict are DNA research, slum-dwellers and a certain elephant-headed god.

The plot swirls around three characters: Leela, Meera and Prof Ved Vyasa Chaturvedi. The women are step-sisters while the professor is a Sanskrit scholar who lusts after the former but marries the latter. The playful, pot-bellied Ganesha enters the narrative as lord and scribe, observer, narrator, actor and instigator.

The wedding that brings the dramatis personae to New Delhi is between Chaturvedi’s son Ashwin and Sunita, the daughter of the Hindu right-wing nationalist Shiva Prasad Sharma. Ashwin has a twin sister, Bharati, who returns from London to attend her brother’s marriage, only to...

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