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A Moving Family Saga

Bhaskar Ghose

By Kiran Doshi
Tranquebar, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 490, Rs. 695.00


The abiding memory that this book leaves behind is of the awesome amount of work, carefully detailed and crafted, that the author has done to bring this book to readers. He takes us, at the start and in the early parts of the novel to the world of Bombay at the turn of the twentieth century, minutely and lovingly imagined, and to the world of the Kowaishi family, steeped in traditions and customs, and its emergence into the then modern world through education of the finest kind in India and in Britain. He introduces us to the deep love that binds the members of this family, the sense of loyalty and, above all the happiness that enclosed them all in their own world. This was obviously made easier because the family was immensely wealthy; happiness is not necessarily related to wealth, but being wealthy makes being happy more carefree, and visibly so through signs of endearment in the shape of presents, clothes and above all, jewellery. Into this world comes Rehana, a girl from a wealthy family herself, as a young bride, ardently courted and then ecstatically married by Sultan, the eldest son of Samiullah, the paterfamilias. She is soon taken by the matriarch, Bari Phuppi, as one of her very own— soon dearly beloved, and the one on whom Bari Phuppi begins to depend more and more. The story is unfolded by the writer carefully, almost delicately, as if he were unravelling plaited hair. Strand by strand, the many stories that go to make up this formidable saga are told; stories that accompany the central narrative, the stories of Dhondav Khote, Sultan’s boyhood friend and his family; of the social world dominated by the British and to a small extent by the very rich Parsee families, and of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a rising, and very intelligent young lawyer. This is where the skill of the novelist is evident—in the way he is able to draw together the domestic tales and the political debates and discussions, and inevitably the events into a seamless and fascinating story of those times, times that seem today to be tranquil compared to the turbulence and endless arguments and violence that mark India’s narrative, or perhaps more correctly, multiple narratives, today. But they were not tranquil, as Doshi records, through the developing stories of the Kowaishi family, of the Khotes, of Jinnah’...

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