Author: Indu Sundaresan
Price: Rs. 499/- [Rs.409/- on Flipkart]
Olivia [who lives in Seattle], who has just lost her Father and is trying to cope up with the loss of the only parent she has known and with him, also the chance to know anything @ all about her Mother, receives a trunk from India as a gift for her upcoming 21st birthday. The trunk contains, among many of her Mother’s personal artefacts, a letter from an unknown narrator – which is the only way the splendor of silence in her life will be filled with words.
Her name, Olivia Nazeera Padmini and her blue eyes-black hair combo tell her that she belongs to a mixed race, but nothing more nothing less. All she has got to hear from her when she is drying her hair or looking out of her window, is that she looks like her Mother and it ends @ that.
The letter takes her back to 1942 to a small princely state Rudrakot [India], where her Father Captain Sam Hawthorne had spent 4 days, just 4 days which changed all their lives. Sam has actually come to Rudrakot in search of his brother Mike, who has been missing for 2 months now [on AWOL officially] . He takes shelter @ the political agent Raman’s house, saying he is visiting Rudrakot on a holiday. Mila, Raman’s daughter and the American Army officer Sam fall in love with each other. Sam is torn between his love for Mila on one side and to the one who has shared his genes, his brother Mike – on the other. Mila also is battling between her loyalty to her family and her feeling for Sam. The book inter-weaves this romance with heart-wrenching tales of the British rule. There are generous pinches of tales about the Nationalist Moment thrown in too.
The story traces Sam’s search for Mike, how he has to balance between spending his limited 4-days leave between what he has come to Rudrakot for and what has unexpectedly happened with him, while keeping his real identity and intentions a secret from people here. It also revolves around Mila and her family; her Father, two brothers – Kiran.who just loves to spend his time in the ‘august’ company of his British friends and Ashok, who is influenced by a close friend leading a Nationalist Movement and Jai – the royal prince of Rudrakot who is all set to marry the love of his life – Mila!
Indu Sundaresan is one of my favourite writers and I luv the authenticity with which she presents historical facts. I had loved two of her other books – Twentieth Wife and its sequel so much that I did not think twice before buying this one. But, there is one thing which disappointed that part of me which trusted this authenticity of her work though – She goes on to tell us how a horse was named Ghatotkach, Raavan’s brother who used to eat a lot and sleep for 6 months straight. This might be just 4 lines in the 400 pages, but these are tales who grew up reading and listening to. Am surprised she missed this one.
There are some very good qualities about these characters – like Raman who has cut short his name so that his surname does not read his ‘superior’ position on the casteism ladder, Mila who teaches women in brothels, so that they are not taken for a ride in money matters etc.. But somehow, I could not really fall in love with any character as much.
It is a decent read, but I felt all the important things happen only in the last few pages of the books and the questions that have been posed get answered only in these pages too. The other parts are good to read too, but they tell you things as they are expected and elaborate the same. I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 [max], while her two other books which I have read, Twentieth Wife and it’s sequel Feast of Roses easily score between 4 and 5.
The book ends with an invitation to Olivia to come to India. May be a sequel in the offing?