More home truths

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Aug 31 2008, 07:08am hrs
She is a keen observer of moments in everyday life. We have seen that in all of Manju Kapurs writing, be it A Married Woman, Difficult Daughters or Home. She explores relationships played out in the place we call our home, the social and economic factors that influence them as also the impact of the outside world. She has also never been wary of taking up controversial issues like sexual abuse (Home) or a lesbian relationship (A Married Woman). Her latest novel, The Immigrant, has all of the Manju Kapur touches and more.

First, the story. Thirty-year-old Nina, an English lecturer, lives with her widowed mother at Jangpura in Delhi. Once part of the good life her father was in the IFS she struggles to make ends meet in Delhi of the 1970s. Nirvana, or thats what her mother hopes, comes in the form of a proposal from an NRI, Ananda, a dentist in Halifax, Canada. Nina, with a mixture of hope and disbelief, agrees to the proposal and becomes the immigrant. Its up to both of them to make the arranged marriage work, but this is not Mills & Boon territory and their relationship, thanks to both sexual and emotional reasons, doesnt quite follow the happily-ever-after formula.

As usual, Kapur excels in bringing the small moments alive and maybe theres a quibble about too much minutiae, but its an important story about family and love and relationships. We get every bit of Ninas life, from her excruciating bus journey home in Delhi So immersed in the world of push, shove, jab and poke, she hung onto another bus strap before being dropped off at the main road next to Jangpura. to her courtship, her first impression of Halifax, their life as Canadian-wannabes, sexual unhappiness, betrayal, and then freedom.

Ditto Ananda. As always, theres a sense of familiarity in what Nina and Ananda undergo. In all her books, Kapur has chronicled middle class lives by taking a good long peek at what lies beneath. In Home, we are shaken out of our wits by the abuse of a child by her cousin, but whats even more appalling is how the parents react, by whisking off the child somewhere else (read sweeping the whole issue under the carpet). In The Immigrant too, you know scores of people do behave like Nina.

Bright, young, educated girls are willing to be whisked off by some stranger and then getting pretty disillusioned when things dont turn out as expected. Nina, of course, makes a life for herself and thats truly endearing. Besides drawing up life-like portraits of Nina and Ananda, Kapur also throws in a few Canadian characters who are subjected to a quiet scrutiny. She does a particularly good job of Anandas best friend and partner Gary who advises him against infidelity. Everybody feels like straying, man, doesnt mean you do it. And there are lovely descriptions of Halifax in all seasons.