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In God’s Name

So how would I describe this one? Like an old Ambassador car retro-fitted with a Suzuki engine perhaps

In God’s Name
The Prayer Room
By Shanthi Sekaran
HarperCollins | Pages: 392 | Rs. 350

In these aggressive marketing times, it is difficult to keep abreast of debut novels, especially when they come with smooth writing and hyberbolic blurbs. Publishing houses now seem to vie with each other to introduce novels and novelists at the rate of two a month. So what’s new today? As I see it, the death knell has been sounded on coming-of-age, nostalgia and granny-bosoms. Ditto for diasporic angst and Calcutta collides with Vancouver tragedies. The brave new writer wants now to upturn the old, katha-ishtyle narratives against the background of the Partition or Babri Masjid, and wants to chart the course of love aaj kal.

So how would I describe this one? Like an old Ambassador car retro-fitted with a Suzuki engine perhaps. Viji, a modest old-fashioned lass from Chennai, marries a gangly British youth when he comes there to do his PhD. They marry and go first to his home in England and then to the US, have triplets and settle into the joys of suburban America. They are soon joined by the widowed father-in-law, and the plot thickens as other relationships tug at all these lives and they start to play hide-and-seek love games. Viji’s private retreat is her prayer room where she has ‘conversations’ with her family. Pity, that unlike Giovannino Guareschi’s Don Camillo dialogues with Christ, the author is unable to develop the comic possibilities of this space. Like much else in the book, Viji is so bound in the ritual of the act that redemption never comes to her.

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