Bharati Jagannathan, an academic and historian who is already well-known as a children’s writer, debuts her collection of fiction for adults with this engagingly heart-warming set of stories. If the vibrant cover with the title ensconced inside a kolam isn’t suggestive enough, the glossary of Tamil, Hindi and Sankrit words that is helpfully appended to this elegantly produced volume is as good an indicator of the social frame of the stories, as of the target readership. Beginning with ‘Acharam: Strict Observance of Ritual Purity and Pollution Norms’, it moves via ‘Dosai: Wholesome Fried Snack (more familiar as dosa)’, to end with ‘Yajamana: Patron for Whom a Ritual is Performed’, incorporating the salwar, samosa, dupatta and a sardarni in its range. In the largely Tamil social landscape of middle-class educated professionals negotiating tradition and modernity, there are encounters with the ‘other’—from the North Indian corruption called the ‘dossa’ that’s the bane of the diasporic Tamil, to more unsettling encounters with life-altering illnesses that generate intense interior monologues, a younger generation negotiating alternative sexual identities, secrets lying buried under appearances of a perfect marriage, perfectly horrendous propects of a Vedanta-spouting mother contemplating marriage in her sixties and the ultimate horror of a retired life sustained without The Hindu.
June 2021, volume 45, No 6