While Mrs. Chitra allows herself to be vulnerable and relax into an intimacy with her servant that she no longer has with her husband, the scene is rudely interrupted by her husband’s abrupt arrival. She immediately shakes Munjee off her like crumbs from her lap, and shouts at her go to and tend to her master immediately. Munjee scurries off, and both women are instantly separated by the intervening male presence.
The theme of unrequited love, of human passion ending in tragedy, violence, suicidal rage, weaves through many chapters of the novel, such as The Lorry Driver, The Tailor, Giving Birth. The entire novel brings us face to face with the complexity our characters face, and through Bhargavi Mandava’s skilfull prose, we are able to understand their innermost feelings as human beings, pundits and beggars alike.
Dr. Sita Murali, for instance, leaves a flourishing medical practice in South India and eventually becomes a staff psychiatrist in a US hospital. She tries to understand her life in the US, and yet maintain her dignity. She stopped wearing saris and started squeezing into itchy polyester pantsuits because that was all they could afford...(p.225).
She realizes with some bitterness that no one warned her about sexism in the US, how depression would eventually kill her husband, how her daughter would eventually be hospitalized after a mental breakdown. And yet, Dr. Murali. like all the men and women we come across, learn to persist, to remember the beauty of their native land to overcome hard times, to read Scriptures in times of desperate need. The men and women come alive for us as they face their moral dilemmas with all the courage they can muster.
Bhargavi Mandava’s fiction and poetry have previously appeared in literary publications such as The Bloomsbury Review, Buffalo Spree, Rockford Review. She is a writer with a promising future, and no doubt we will have the pleasure of reading more of her future work.
Jyotsna Sanzgiri serves as the Dean of the Organizational Psychology Program at the California School of Professional Psychology