Priyanka Naik is a virtual blogger friend. Met her on Facebook, and she qualified as one of my many friends who inspire me to comment on their posts in the form of verse. She , is a doctor and diabetologist as well.
Turns out that she is also an author.
"Twists of Fate" , published by Mahavir Publishers (2014) is her maiden offering.
I am always intrigued and interested when someone writes a book where a lot of stuff is shown happening in Mumbai. Call me old fashioned if you will. But I am even more interested when it does NOT have anything to do with corporate shenanigans, financial crookedness, high society shocking falls, gundas, police, banks, cheating, four-letter-words-used-as normal-conversation , television and Bollywood.
This is a story about 3 friends, Sharvari Joshi, Parizaad Sethna and Nandini Muzumdar, who lived, studied and grew up in Mumbai. Their adolescence, the social milieu in which they lived , their families, and their growing up into women, who go their own ways, perhaps , due to twists of fate.
The author starts out with what can be only called an ode to Mumbai. An introduction to the city where the three girls live out their stories. Their childhoods. A conservative middle class, possibly Shivaji Park(of old) childhood of Sharvari Joshi, high on sensible living, studies and traditional family relationships. The hi-fi , society conscious , parents of Nandini Muzumdar, who have no time for their 2 daughters . And a typical Parsee family of Parizaad Sethna, with a very generous indulgent doctor father, and a very kid friendly, observant, food expert, mother with a British background, but steeped in more Indian parental ethos than the actual Indians. All three girls, as youngsters have a favourite haunt, a Cafe Connect managed by Parizaad's mother , where they are fussed over by the lady who also has a keen sense of observation , and an ability to communicate and help.
The girls lose contact after college, and go their own ways. Some get married. And face their individual ups and downs. Some in very physical ways, and some in reams of mental trauma. Parizaad Sethna goes to the UK , to seek family solutions to her mother's puzzling memory situation, and makes her own life as a photographer.
The story is about the three lives, a meeting by chance many years later , back in Mumbai, and how they literally "feed" off each other mentally, trying to right the various situations, with their new learnings, and awareness of life.
The book is like the Mumbai suburban trains. They start with a tentative jerk velocity, which soon meshes into a rhythmic smooth ride, offering you life vistas that make you think.
For those like me , belonging to the generation before Priyanka's , who can identify with one of the girls , and had friends like the others, it is a joy to read through the growing up years. (I actually had a Parsi best friend). The author has a way with words, and great felicity of expression. Somewhere , as a doctor she is able to weave in the issue of Alzheimer's which is often the bane of many in old age, and the possible solutions that are available, medically and socially.
A few things though, in the book, seem a bit too convenient, in today's Mumbai, which is when the three girls meet again. That Parizaad's old house and the cafe remain unoccupied, and convenient for the get-together of the girls, in the face of the real estate sharks and the politics of Mumbai, which has changed a lot . Not impossible but surprising.
But I loved the ending. Nandini finding her calling and starting her nutrition diet set up, Sharavari doing her book, Parizaad with her mother, temporarily back to the place of her childhood, and her mother, responding suddenly to vague memory glimmers as she gingerly touches an oil painting from her past.....
A great first attempt by a young woman. It has been great reading about a Mumbai that I remember , and was a part of . It has been instructive as the author weaves in problems faced in today's modern family in the face of a society that sometimes doesn't move as fast as time.
So does this book have autobiographical leanings ? I don't know. But if it does, the book is richer for it.
A wonderful flow of the narrative, has you smiling and nodding occasionally, as you dip into the past.
Go ahead and get it. Then go get a nice cup of tea.
And then read it. Enjoy . The book, that is ...