Fire on the mountain by Anita Desai is story of three lives Nanda Kaul, her great-granddaughter Raka and her childhood friend Ila Das. Nanda Kaul is living alone in the hills of Kasauli. Raka is recovering from an illness. Hence she is dispatched to Kasauli to stay with Nanda. Nanda is unhappy with the intrusion in her lonely life. Raka arrives at Kasauli. But like Nanda she too stays aloof. She is more happy climbing the mountains and touching the ferns. Then one day childhood friend of Nanda, Ila comes to visit her for tea. Ila is a garrulous lady. She has a piercing voice and is very much unlike Nanda. She is living the life of penury and has to work hard despite the old age to make money.
The author takes time to build the plot. The story moves ahead very slowly. In the beginning it is too boring. The descriptions drag and drag. Then Raka arrives on the scene. Her relationship with Nanda is nothing like expected. This is where the author scores as a writer. You keep on wondering as to why Nanda doesn’t draw her great-granddaughter closer, make her sit on her lap and kiss her cheek. The answer is that Nanda is like that and so is Raka. Ila is a character which is both hilarious and poignant. Like Raka she too adds lot of colours to this story.
The story is subtly woven. The backdrop of the hills is beautiful. Though the start bored me, after finishing the novel, it gave me a satisfaction of reading something sumptuous. I absolutely loved the book.