Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Where the river parts - book review

Radhika Swarup's Where the River Parts is a story of unrequited love set in the times of partition. This is the story of Asha. Nargis is her best friend and neighbour. They reside in what is present day Pakistan. Firoze is Nargis's brother. Asha and Firoze fall in love. Firoze even asks for Asha's hand to her father. He tells Firoze to wait until the conditions of the country are normal, especially for the Hindus. He even turn's down Om's marriage proposal for Asha. Asha's mother wants to migrate to India, but her father is reluctant to do so. Om has already migrated to Delhi. Sensing trouble Asha's mother gives Om her jewellery for safekeeping. Circumstances force Asha's family to migrate to India. Asha has a secret buried inside her. She loses Firoze's child by miscarriage in transit. Asha's entire family is killed on the way. Only she survives the massacre. A kind hearted Muslim couple shelters her secretly. One fine day Asha manages to get a lift for Delhi. She wants to go to Om, who has her gold. Asha reaches Om's house which is flooded with refugees seeking help. Om who always loved Asha marries her. Asha is unable to conceive. She houses a Muslim maid Sanam who too has survived the atrocities of partition. She is impregnated by that unknown miscreant who was amongst those who raped her. Sanam is unable to get rid of the child in the womb. By a secret pact Asha raises her child saying that it is her own.

Now the novel moves fast forward, Asha's granddaughter in New York in in love with Hussain who is Nargis's grandson. Asha’s daughter unaware of the Muslim blood in her veins, opposes the relationship. But Asha is for it. Nargis is dead but Firoz is alive. Asha and Firoze meet in New York. They know that they cannot come together. But their love for each other hasn't dried. As a result of which Firoze has been an eternal bachelor.

Radhika Swarup does a decent job with her debut novel. She recreates the partition era very well. She weaves friendship, love, loss in a very poignant manner. The novel falters once it takes a fifty years leap and reaches New York. Description on page 79 and following chapter 13 gave me an impression that Papaji is dead. But he resurfaced (alive) in chapter 14. But that doesn't mean that the novel is no good. Apart from these discrepancies the novel flows like a river, soft and smooth. The author weaves poignant tales of suffering of partition. This novel entertains and tells a story of love which is spread over decades and continents. It is a nice read for sure.

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