Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"The Sari Shop Widow" by Shobhan Bantwal

This is probably the first time I have read something written by an Indian living in the United States, about Indians living in the United States. Being set in Edison in New Jersey, which is nicknamed "Little India" and has a large Indian population and all manner of Indian stores selling clothing, jewelry, food, groceries and what have you, it's actually not very different from the way it would have been if it had been set in modern day urban India.

The central character is a 37 year old widow who has devoted her life to expanding and running her parents' sari shop, after she turned it into a more upscale and exclusive boutique. She lives with her parents, having moved back in after losing her husband. The family is a relatively conservative traditional Gujarati family. They are in financial distress and they bring in the autocratic rich uncle to help them out and save their business from bankruptcy. The uncle also brings with him an English-Indian business partner, who develops a love interest in the widowed niece.

As far as I am concerned, the story could just as well have happened in Delhi. I have not been to Edison and have not seen any Indian clothing stores in this country, though I am told that there are a couple in Cambridge in Massachusetts as well. There is only one character in the story who is American, a bar keeper and owner. He could just as well have been an Indian guy from a less conservative family.

Anyway, the point is, there's nothing in the book, as far as I can see, that is specific to the lives of Indians in America. However, it is still an entertaining read with quite a bit of Bollywood style drama and romance thrown in. A bit of suspense, a bit of action, flashbacks from thirty years ago, the works. Enough to keep me entertained and wanting to read more. A colorful, vibrant story and a reasonably light read.

1 comment:

Neat Rat said...

Read some by Kazuo Ishiguro. They will complement books such as the one you read very nicely.