Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sweet and sour family feuds

Some novels are worth reading simply because you learn so much from them. About a city, or a community, or a group of people, or a certain kind of business. About the food, the clothes, the social practices, even the sexual urges of that group. Namita Devidayal's Aftertaste is one of those novels.

That's not to say the story doesn't take you along on its own strength. Despite some early buzz about its being modelled on the relationships and faultlines between the three Ambanis - Dhirubhai, Mukesh and Anil - its canvas is far more modest: the lives of a business family of mithaiwallahs. Sure, there are a few superficial coincidences - in Devidayal's book, too, there are feuding brothers and the death of the person who controlled the business. But superficial is the operative word.

The story, on the face of it, is about how Mummyji, the matriarch of the family, built up a sizeable business - first inspiring and goading her husband and, then, taking over the reins herself after his death; and about how both her sons - and daughters, and everyone whose lives revolved around her in one way or another - prove weak and, in their own respective ways, avaricious. Using an innovative structure that starts with the matriarch’s collapse and then recounts the events leading up to it - going far back into personal histories - Devidayal tells an absorbing story that sucks you in just like the oversweet syrups coating the sweets she describes in loving detail.

full report here IBNLive

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