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Last Circle

Exploring roots is a familiar theme but it is the manner in which Amrita Kumar does so that sets this work apart

Last Circle
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Damage
By Amrita Kumar
Harper Collins Pages: 261; Rs. 295
Exploring roots is a familiar theme but it is the manner in which Amrita Kumar does so in Damage that sets this work apart. This is a story about Christians and their identity. It is also about the larger identity issue and the threat posed to it by fundamentalists.

The story centres round Gudda’s life and her love-hate relationship with her mother. Fed up with her evangelical Christian upbringing, Gudda leaves Delhi for Mumbai to be a journalist. In an act of defiance, she marries a Hindu. The marriage is soon on the rocks and Gudda returns home to her mother, Beatrice—a rich and well-drawn character. She watches her mother slowly fade away and die.

In between, there are family disputes over the ‘house by the nala’, the comings and goings of sisters, cousins, aunts, Christian friends. Damage comes through at many levels. Gudda is torn between two worlds, contemptuous of one and uncomfortable in the other. After her marriage fails, she comes home as "there’s nowhere else to go". But then, as society begins to question her identity, she is forced to search further for her roots.

This takes her to Rajasthan—to her family home, in ruins now, to find answers and clues on her ancestral Dahiriya tribe. The journey of self-discovery ends where it began, in her home, ravaged by fundamentalists, her mother dying.

It is in Amrita Kumar’s descriptions, the way she evokes a period, a context, the manner in which she brings all senses into play that really elevates this work. One lives and feels through each stage and until it dawns on her—and us—that the journey was the destination.

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