Food is an integral part of any culture. From birth till death, milestones in life are often marked with celebrations – and food forms an important part of these events. Relationships are built on food. It is also an inseparable string that binds one to their roots. Food can also be cathartic, and also a great anti-depressant.
A recently-released Bengali fantasy film is also based on the concept of food driving the basic emotions of a person. So, seven spices – after the colours of the rainbow – depicted the seven basic emotions in the film. ‘Spirits in a Jar’ by Sarina Kamini takes the thought to a much bigger scale.
As the blurb of the book says, “food is love, love is faith, and faith is family.” The book recounts the tale of an Indian-Australian woman coming to terms with her mother being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She finds solace in food.
Her mother’s old cooking recipes help her heal her wounds and rediscover her Kashmiri roots. She wins over her grief and loneliness by seeking solace in spiritualism. The spices are her medium – she revisits the core beliefs of Hinduism and personalises God in her own way. In the process, she learns the value of acceptance and love.
While the book is predominantly about food, it also touches upon socio-political issues – like the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. The author explores how this flight from one’s homeland bore an impact on several generations thereafter, and changed lives.
To her credit, the author has beautifully crafted the characters. Each of them are enamoured with layers and complexities of emotions – which makes it very easy for a reader to connect to them. The author has also established a complex web of emotions centred around the mother-daughter relationship. The juxtaposition of the protagonist’s relationship with her mother with that of her children gives us a glimpse into the generational shift in parenting as well.
Kashmiri food is delectable and the lovely recipes that this book has make one immensely crave for food. However, like the absence of a key spice makes a food bland, ‘Spirits in a Jar’ fails to connect with the reader beyond the food. At times it is tiring. Overall, the book serves a staple diet of rice-daal when you were expecting pulao.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by Westland Books
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A book written by Abhisar Sharma is always a treat to read. I remember calling him ‘India’s answer to Frederick Forsyth’ in the review of ‘The Edge of the Machete’. There is hardly a match for him, when it comes to writing thrillers, and his latest book ‘The Kaafir’s Love’ is no exception.
As the name suggests, the book is essentially a love story – but in India, love can be life-threatening. India is a country with her feet in the 21st century, but her heart and mind in the eighteenth century. Regressive beliefs, predominance of faith in decision-making, sinister politicking, rigid caste equations are pulling this country backward even as we talk of bullet trains and digital boom. In the age of anti-Romeo squads and honour killings, it is hazardous and perilous to fall in love. Sameer, the protagonist of this novel committed that mistake.
Sameer, a young lad from the lower echelons of the society, lives in the ‘Walled City’ in Chandni Chowk. As luck would have it, he is smitten by Inara, the daughter of the local businessman, Imtiaz, who has his fingers in all the wrong pies for money-making. Although Naseer, Sameer’s bosom-buddy, tries to dissuade the latter, he pursues Inara and they fall in love.
Even as two young hearts committed themselves to each other in the ‘Walled City’, the socio-political amity of the neighbourhood is dealt a blow by two successive incidents. As the city is brought to the brink of a communal backlash, the young lovers decide to elope.What follows is a thrilling tale of betrayal, savagery, and kitchen politics. Old skeletons tumble out of the closet, upsetting equations.
The most enjoyable element of this book is its thrill quotient and the element of surprise. The moment you start expecting the plot to traverse a linear trajectory, a sudden twist changes the course of events. Abhisar’s lucid writing, and the vivid imagery of his words transform the novel into a ‘motion picture’ of sorts. From passionate descriptions of Sameer-Inara’s intimate moments to gruesome scenes of brutal violence – Abhisar’s detailed narrative does not let your attention slack.
It is true that the overall plot bears slight resemblance to the movie ‘Sairat’, only the caste division replaced with religious tension. But then this could well have been Abhisar’s take on Romeo and Juliet, in an Indian setting. That is the universality of the core concept of ‘The Kaafir’s Love’. This is not just a love story, but a social commentary on the current socio-political situation prevalent in the country.
‘The Kaafir’s Love’ is the perfect companion for an idyllic Sunday afternoon.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by the author.
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