Book 164: A Fine Family by Gurcharan Das

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A Fine Family by Gurcharan Das

Finished reading on April 8th

Rating: 8/10

This book deals with the lives of several generations of a family beginning in the 1940s in Lyallpur, continuing through the troubled time of Partition and moving away from their ancestors’ home as staying there becomes too dangerous. The second part follows the recently married daughter Tara and her husband Seva Ram and their son Arjun as they make their life in Simla and the final part of the book follows a grown-up Arjun and his later life and marriage.

One of the most prominent themes in the book seems to be dissatisfaction and also as appropriate for the time – being carried along in the fast flowing current of history.

“Even the dogs trembled as they wandered in despair for a morsel of human neglect. Once or twice a door opened and the smell of fear spilled onto the street.”

The book is certainly worth a read – the characters are interesting, though I personally didn’t find them particularly agreeable, and it is a fast paced story, with the end being a little bit rushed compared to the rest of it. But it’s all a little unexpected – you think you know what will happen, and it will, but there’s always some kind of twist to it… It’s quite poetic.

Book 130: The Sari Shop by Rupa Bajwa

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The Sari Shop by Rupa Bajwa

Finished reading on April 8, 2014

Rating: 8/10

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 Рshowing the miserable life and living conditions of the working class, and what humans might become or do under pressure. An interesting look at life.