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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Like her poetry, Anjum Hasan’s new book ‘A Day in the Life’ gives us an insight into the world through a new prism. Her characters are diverse and the stories are about their daily lives. The 14 stories give us a sense of the world that resides inside us, within the confines of the skull. A glimpse into the psyche of these characters takes us through their insecurities, complexes and whims.
Even the setting of the stories gives us a sense of an era gone by. Take the first story for example. In ‘The Stranger’ the retired protagonist leaves his fast-paced metro life and shifts base to a quaint, small town to experience the life in a hilly place. Throughout the story one expects something to happen. But the drudgery of the small town existence sails through till the end of the story. Life goes on.
Anjum Hasan explores the complexities of relationships in her second story ‘Sisters’. Female bonding is the underlying theme of the story, which also stands out for the enigmatic and aesthetic portrayal of friendship between Janaki and Jaan.
My favourite story in the lot is ‘A Short History of Eating’. Hasan beautifully describes how liberalisation has fuelled consumerism, thus creating desire and the urge to eat more. Liberalisation has affected each one of us – from what we eat to what we read. This is also reflected in ‘The Question of Style’ which deals with the desire of the two young protagonists to “become stylish”.
In fact, each of the stories has an undercurrent of intimacy in the treatment of the characters, and the dynamics between them. The protagonists are introverts, with volumes of vulnerability in them. The innate desire of these men and woman to carve a leave a mark in the mundaneness of existence, is the driving force for you to read on.
Anjum Hasan’s wizardry of words is exemplified in the prose. Not only do the written words make an impact, the things left unsaid make the reading experience even more pleasurable. One can only wait in anticipation for her next work, to be transported into a world of fantasy that exists well within the humdrum of daily life.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
P.S. This review is part of the Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme
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