Loss and Longing
Mala Pandurang
THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS by Kiran Desai Penguin Books, Delhi, 2006, 324 pp., 495
May 2006, volume 30, No 5

The Inheritance of Loss has a minimal plot. The narrative is set at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas. It is 1986 when the story opens with a robbery by young insurgents, who force their way into a retired judge’s decrepit colonial mansion and steal his hunting rifles in the presence of the judge, his seventeen-year-old granddaughter Sai, his cook, and his purebred dog Mutt. The narrative then weaves back and forth, offering the personal histories of the characters, and the political background to a growing discontent and insurgency of the Indian Nepalese youth, “fed up with being treated like the minority in a place where they were the majority” (p.19). The Gorkhaland National Liberation Front (GNLF) is now seeking a separate Nepali state , and as acts of violence, and of police brutality mount, the lives of the non-Nepalis who have resided in the hills for decades take tragic twists, as they become unwanted outsiders, and prisoners of their own location. This is a story as much of loss, as it is of bittersweet longing for a world that eludes each of the characters, as a consequence of their class backgrounds and post/colonial legacies. They thereby become the inheritors of loss.

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