A surprising find, A Model House is a pot pourri, the author’s life and interests held up to a mirror for all to see. Alaknanda moves from being Al in the leafy suburbs of Wisconsin, living in a fairy-tale world of NRIs to Nanda at ABCD, a design and architecture school in Gujarat. In her final semester at ABCD, Nanda meets the enigmatic, Rajdoot-riding, beedi smoking, model-maker Raghunath Bhatt, younger brother to the legendary and dead Shivnath Bhatt. Almost immediately, the college girl is swept off her feet by his freedom and his charm, falling in love with him and spiraling into his life in the painfully mundane world of Lakeview Apartments.Into these spare bones, Uttara Chauhan thrusts a twisted kaleidoscope of lives, memories and perspectives, from the past and present. There is the parable of political idealism as it wastes away into bitter corruption. There is the stoned world of Devji, the opium-addict. There is of course, the shining world of architecture and buildings, with its paraphernalia and politics..There is the bewildering and strange world of the expatriate. And most amusing of all, there is the vicious and pointed spearing of the “development games” played by NGOs and governments, with their acronyms and jargon, their motives and the unvarnished reality of the poor who are their playthings.
February 2004, volume 28, No 2