From Delhi to dilemma in distant Canada

2009-07-22 00:00

RARELY does a book evoke such a strong emotional response in me. Manju Kapur may just be my new favourite contemporary author.

The story of the immigrant relates the journey of Nina, an educated Indian woman teaching at a university in Delhi, who in her early 30s, is almost on the shelf. Her anxious mother wants to see her beloved only child settled in marriage — preferably with children — before she dies, and takes her to an astrologer who foresees a good marriage on the near horizon.

Enter Ananda: dentist, relatively rich, handsome, parentless and a notable catch for an arranged marriage.

One problem, he lives in what may as well be another universe — Canada. Nina however, succumbs to his charms and marries him, leaving her motherland to start her long journey to Canada, her future lying before her, pregnant with potential for love, happiness and all that is good.

Reluctantly, Nina sheds her sari in favour of jeans, and adds meat to her previously vegetarian diet as she tries to fit into a culture that renders her enormously conspicuous. The description of Kapur as a “modern day Jane Austen”, I found to be accurate.

As her illusions about Ananda crumble, she begins to realise that self-reliance is vital, and she learns to rely on her pride and strong sense of self.

Readers will be eager to get back to her story each time they reluctantly put the book down.

It’s a book I keep thinking about, although I finished reading it days ago now. A very worthy read in which a perspicacious author describes many facets of the female condition in plain language, parts of which at least are achingly relative to any woman’s life.

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