Picking up Oleander Girl was an obvious after-effect of reading Palace Of Illusions.
Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The engagement of Korobi(Bengali for Oleander, and hence the title) and Rajat sets the stage for a host of complicated situations for each of the characters in the story. Korobi suddenly finds herself faced with the loss of her beloved grandfather and in possession of fragments of a secret about her parents who, she has been brought up to believe, are dead. Rajat comes with the baggage of a reckless past, but having met Korobi, turns a new leaf and strives to be mature and responsible, both professionally and in the relationship. Korobi’s quest for the truth about her roots would take her away to America right after their engagement, the prospect of which stirs misgivings at different levels in Rajat, his parents and Korobi’s grandmother. Meanwhile, Rajat’s parents are also grappling with financial problems and a necessity to remain tight-lipped about their future daughter-in-law’s sudden disappearance to America right before the wedding. Rajat is fighting hard to prove his worth in the family business, fight ghosts from his past and trying to be supportive of Korobi in her mission. How each of them handle their challenges weaves the story.
Personal highs :
- Contemporary fiction generally works well for me, more so when it is a familiar Indian setting.
- Love how different characters take turns to narrate chunks of the story in their voice. It is Korobi for the most part, but Rajat, his mother, the grandmother and the driver Asif voice from time to time, and it is interesting to read the proceedings from their perpective.
- The way the characters are etched out – I think this is the author’s forte. Each character comes with their own inevitable weaknesses. The way they react to situations makes the reader get into the skin of the character and relate to them perfectly.
The not-so highs:
- The writing style and the flow of language, though sufficient for the context, paled a little against the standard she had set in the Palace of Illusions.
- Too many undercurrents in the course of the book – ranging from identity crisis, to worker union problems, to Hindu-Muslim strife, to employer loyalty, to rage of the jilted girlfriend – it seemed as if too many things were thrown in, though they were pretty neatly tied up in the end.
- Though generally a sucker for happy endings, this was toooo much of a happily-ever-after ending for me. Came off as a touch lame.
Recommend? : Yes, at the moment. Might reconsider after reading more of her work.
Taa taa is the biggest obsession. I reckon he dreams of tata even in his sleep. He wakes up in the morning, you pleasantly coo a “Good Morning Pattani” to him, he gives you a wide smile and goes taaa taaa, with those hand movements(you get the picture?). Ditto behavior when both of us get back home after work. Appa and thatha are his standard tata-takers(?!). They only have to change to some decent t-shirt to activate his tata-radars. Irrespective of which corner of the house he is in, he crawls to them in top speed and lies right beneath their feet and looks up with those large, puppy eyes. Of course, the ONLY thing one can do is pick him up, cuddle him and take him out. For all this, one must think we take to to some fancy place each time, but no! His daily visitations extend to no further than the end of the street, but those HAVE TO HAPPEN, rain or shine, at least 5 times a day. Either that, or you can have your head eaten by taaa taaa taaa taa till you give in.(with those hand movements, of course. I admit he makes a damn cute sight when he does that.)
Veshamam is his middle name. I cannot exactly recall when the tiny helpless tot turned into this tsunami that he is now. From rolling over, he proceeded to commando crawl, then sat up and quickly learnt to grab on the sofa to hoist himself up to stand. All of two feet that he is, the damage that he is capable of is about tenfold. At least five hundred times a day he HAS to:
- Grab on to anything that he can lay his hands on(least affected by insignificant issues like his hold-object not being strong enough to actually support him) and stand up.
- Pull down with a flourishing clash anything he can lay his hands on
- Appear mildly startled if the subject in question breaks into pieces(like a forgotten teacup)
- Act as if nothing happened exactly one second later and proceed to pull down the next available item.
- Meanwhile, suddenly forget that he is still needs to hold on to support to remain standing, and flail hands wildly to reach out to some fascinating object beyond reach. Crash land. Look around to see if anybody gives terrified gasps or shrieks. If yes, howl loudly and bask in the pity and consequential cuddles. Else, ignore and stand up again.
Remember how I said he takes to strangers pretty well? I think I spoke too soon. The size of the world population that is allowed to hold him stands at a grand total of 7. That includes me and K, both sets of grandparents and an uncle of ours(for the reason that he tirelessly takes him out for tata.) Everybody else, you may entertain Pattani from a distance, he will bestow upon you the most beatific of smiles. He will constantly keep checking if he has your attention for all his exploits. If you ignore him, he will draw your attention. You may talk to him all you want. But hold him, you cannot. I do not know why or when he developed such deep stranger anxiety, but it peaked during a recent family function that we attended where he absolutely refused to leave our side and created a massive scene if anybody tried to pry him away. Who am I kidding? Somewhere deep down, I felt like a million bucks. Who knows how long this phase is here to stay, and when it does, who wants to pass up the chance of being the most favored person to earth to Pattani ?
His favorite toys are not the bagful of innovative stuff that loving friends of ours have bought him on their visits. Not the ones that we so carefully and thoughtfully picked out for him. What he loves playing with are our tupperware lunchboxes and other storage cans, laundry bags, preferably full of dirty clothes and Appa’s cherished xBox games(pull, bang,chew – what else qualifies as play? Huh ?). Oh, I forget paper. Some paper passion he has. A fond mother can only hope this obsession for eating paper will turn into a passion for books some day. Wondering what the connection is? I said fond mother,right? Other sly activities include pulling down the tomato/onion basket down and squashing tomatoes, spotting an extremely invisible grain of rice or urad dhal and stuffing it into his mouth.
Such is life now.