Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Review : A Fine Family

Author : Gurcharan Das

Image courtesy : Amazon

After reading "Difficulty of being good" by Gurcharan Das, I had to read some of his other works. So I picked this book up. "A Fine Family" - a story of three generations, set against the backdrop of changing India - physically as well as at the soul level. The story starts from the time when India was trying to stand on her own feet to get the long due freedom from the Britishers. The main character - Bauji, was a successful lawyer in Lyallpur (now in Pakistan) with his extended family enjoying the benefits of being an urban middle class family. It focuses on the thoughts and feelings of the people at that time when the independence of India was being decided by the leaders on both sides of the table. How the negotiations affected the people of those regions, who literally paid the price for independence of India by giving everything which belonged to them - from material things to their lives. A heart wrenching narration of partition incidents and how some lucky few could cross the border to be on the safer lands. Bauji's family was one among those which could reach the new India, with smaller physical map and a bleeding heart. Loosing just one daughter to the mad riots at that time was the minimum damage they could think of. Many concerns have been raised by the author which I am sure lingered ( and still lingering) on in people's minds and memories - were/are we not competent enough to be a leader of ourselves, were we habitual of being led only. Was the partition of 1947 justified, did the leaders failed the common people who were living in denial till the last moments of partition thinking that this senseless communal violence would stop soon. These are the questions which have been raised and been discussed innumerable times but I guess, some questions are destined to remain unanswered.

Then comes the next generation - a generation which mainly got busy filling up the positions which were being vacated by the British people. It is being depicted through the life of Bauji's daughter Tara and her family. The moods, likes and dislikes of Tara and majority of that generation, quite different from her own husband (Seva Ram) though. Inspite of spending the lives together, they both remain unconvinced by the ways which appeal to the other person.

And the third - Tara and Seva Ram's son - Arjun, who wants to achieve more. So he steps out on his own to explore life in a totally different city - Mumbai.

One striking thing which comes out after reading this book is that no matter what times, which generation, humans do have an innate ability of coming out even from worst of situations - triumphant, owing to the grit and determination. It was evident in all three generations - Bauji starting his life afresh after having suffered the perils of partition, Tara having to compromise on marriage front and getting on with the new life which was being chosen for her by her elders and Arjun having left the unpleasant experience of being convicted (wrongly) behind him.

Gurcharan Das is a great story-teller with flawless language and has beautifully portrayed the desires and then adjustments, strengths and weaknesses - of human mind.

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