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A Case for Nostalgia

3 mins read

Title: Monsoon Memories
Author: Renita D’Silva
Publisher: Harlequin

By publishing with a Harlequin imprint, the author, Renita D’Silva stands the risk of being narrowly labeled as a women’s writer. In fact, the last few pages of the book are devoted to the publishers, Harlequin, to promote their other ‘books for women’.

It is said that in biological terms, there is less than a 2% difference between men and women. Indeed readership surveys in the past have shown that men form a majority (a little over 50%) of the readers of many women’s magazines. I wonder whether Harlequin has done a similar study of their books as well.

Reading between the covers of Monsoon Memories, I tried to determine how exactly a book specifically for women differs from normal lit. I didn’t have far to read – the difference is in the accents. In Monsoon Memories it is the endless words on nostalgia, relationships and ‘deflowerment’. While men may find it expedient to zip up and be off, women seem to lose the dividing line between past and present.

And then, too, a woman’s descriptions may be very different:

Pg.115: ‘They were besides the swimming pool. The water, the same dark blue as the eyeliner Reena’s mum sometimes wore, danced a rippling tune…’

D’Silva weaves a story around a secret but ensconces it in diaphanous layers which she peels, a layer every chapter, till the very end. This may sound like a tantalizing mystery novel but it’s just an opportunity to stage a dance of various emotions. D’Silva’s words are rich with adjectives and descriptions. This includes her hometown of Mangalore, its verdancy and monsoon earthiness. The detailed description crosses over to food and the intricate way that it is prepared; not to forget clothes as well.

Pg 166: ‘She defrosted the coconut and fried it gently in ghee adding a cup of sugar at the last minute. She crushed the cardamom seeds and pounded the jaggery. She fried the cashew nuts, chopped them finely and added them to the mixture. She mixed the maida with ghee and salt and…’

In keeping with the times, the main characters of the book, Shirin and Vinod run away to the West (London this time, the author’s current home) to escape a claustrophobic society back home. However, they only find physical comfort shorn of inner meaning. As is the trend, they return ‘home’ to confront their past aggravations and look at it in a new light.

Finally, who is this book meant for, men or women? I won’t make it any easier, read it and make up your own mind!

The author has an engineering degree but nursed a secret wish to become a writer or a librarian. This is Renita D’Silva’s debut novel. She has, however, written and published short stories before. Her second book, ‘The Forgotten Daughter’ is also now out

About the reviewer – Vinod Kaul is an alumnus of St.Stephen’s College, Delhi and IIM, Ahmedabad. While he originally hoped to become an astronomer, he went on a tangent into the hurly-burly of the corporate sector, albeit somewhat reluctantly, with a career panning top firms across Canada and India. He has also headed the Fashion Design Council of India that brings out the India Fashion Week.

Kaul chucked it all up to turn publisher, launched Newsvision, about e-newsletters on retail, fashion and luxury sectors. The enterprise brought out the closet-writer in him, and he has since been churning out short-stories, soon to be published.

Vinod is currently an independent management consultant, who discovered long distance running when most hang up their shoes, and now has a number of marathons and ultras under his belt.

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