From a cramped, ant-infested house to a spacious bungalow, a family finds itself making a transition in many ways. The narrator, a sensitive young man, is numbed by the swirl around him. All he can do is flee every day to an old-world cafe, where he seeks solace from an oracular waiter. As members of the family realign their equations and desires, new strands are knotted, others come apart and conflict brews dangerously in the background.
Loved this book, masterfully crafted, capturing the so much substance in such few pages without compromising the storytelling.
(Minor spoilers ahead)
The book starts in first person and with our unnamed narrator, a guy who regularly visits a coffe shop to kill time, away from his family chaos but as the story starts to unfold we realise that the main theme of the story is the recurring phrase “blood is thicker than water.” Also he is particularly fond of a waiter Vincent, whose words have an ominous value in the story.
The narrator recalls his days growing up in a lower middle class joint family with his parents,uncle chikkappa and sister malati, the family is barely keeping it together with the job of his father as a spice salesman, who is later forced to take an early retirement.
‘It’s true what they say – it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us.’
This quote personifies the family, as they make their overnight fortune ‘Sona Masala’. With investment from his father’s retirement money, uncle chikkappa manages every part of the businesses, as it skyrocketed, they move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house on the upper side of Bangalore, and try to adjust to a new way of life the family dynamic begins to shift.
“Appa enjoys our current prosperity with considerable hesitation, as if it were undeserved. He’s given to quoting a proverb that says wealth shouldn’t strike suddenly like a visitation, but instead grow gradually like a tree.”
The impact of the new found fortune starts to realign the behaviour of all family members towards themselves and others. Malti’s marriage is arranged and falter, meanwhile narrator’s wife Anita enters the household and her set of values constantly clash with that of the family, brewing ominous conflict in the background making things “ghachar ghochar”—a nonsense phrase uttered by Anita, which means something tangled beyond repair, a knot that can’t be untied.
“When you have no choice you have no discontent either”
And that’s where the author leaves us with a close and open ending, it’s amazing you’ll have fun reading it and connecting the dots (A hint – focus on Vincent’s less but important lines)