The Sari Shop by Rupa Bajwa
Finished reading on April 8, 2014
The Sari Shop follows the life of a Ramchand, a shop assistant in Amritsar (which wikipedia tells me is in Punjab, India).
His day-to-day life might seem repetitive – as he wakes up in the morning, washes himself, is usually late to work and has to show saris to customers at work, eats a quick lunch and back to work, and the evenings he’d usually just spend staring at the ceiling, and on Sundays he’d go and see a movie in the cinema.
However Ramchand’s life is about to change, as he decides that he will try to read and write English every evening. In addition he is getting extra assignments at work, to go and show saris to the rich Kapoor family, whose daughter Rina is about to get married (and has a role to play further on in the story), or go fetch his colleague to work.
But while he is trying to improve himself, he also finds out more about his work colleagues, especially about Chander, one of his older colleagues, and about his wife Kamla, who he once sees, when he is sent out to find Chander who hasn’t turned up at work. Kamla is drunk and saying all sorts of obscenities. And this is where the novel’s mood changes, and we’re in for a surprise (not too nice one) ending.
“Just to be alive meant to be undignified, Ramchand thought, his stomach aching with acidity. Because it wasn’t just about your own life eventually. What was the point of trying to learn, to develop the life of your mind, to whitewash your walls, when other people lay huddled and beaten in dingy rooms? Or had dark, dingy memories like rooms without doors and windows, rooms you could never leave” – Rupa Bajwa
The book was interesting, and the second part of the novel, which gives a lot of background information about Kamla reminded me of the writing of Fyodor Dostoyevsky – showing the miserable life and living conditions of the working class, and what humans might become or do under pressure. An interesting look at life.