16 January 2010

Come, before evening falls by Manjul Bajaj

Some things never change
I enjoyed reading this book and also admired the way it was written and the different elements of village life that the author brought into the story.
One of the bits I enjoyed most was the beginning.
For three days Naib Singh had lain in a ditch, bleeding, wounded, starving, but awake, willing himself to keep his eyes open lest his hands clasped tightly in prayer should come undone as he drifted into sleep …
These lines give no indication of whether what follows will make the book a classic, or trash, or something in between.
But it goes on to tell the wondrous and rather incredible tale of Naib Singh and his favourite black bull after whom the village he founded was named.
I mailed Manjul Bajaj asking her for more information about herself and the book and she sent me links. After my Sunday Mid-day review was published, I sent her this link to it.
I also found, to my surprise, two Manjul Bajaj’s on facebook and when I told her, she mailed me this funny, wry poem she had written for the other one:
I run into you on Facebook
And you must despair
of googling me inadvertently.
I know you are a woman
and younger than me -
I wish you a husband speedily-
Tall, dark, handsome
and as masterful
as a hero in a Millsy
ought to be-
Someone who’ll insist
you take his name
and leave mine alone
with me!
When I mentioned that at times I’d wondered whether Jugni’s feelings in the book weren’t a little culturally alien and perhaps more like what a girl in Europe or America would feel and think, and arise from the concept of “falling in love” in those cultures rather than the spontaneous hormonal reaction of an Indian village girl, she replied, “You could be right, I don't know. When I first started working/living in a village in tribal Gujarat in the way back when I was twenty something what struck me overwhelmingly was how shared the human condition was - how feelings and families are the same across huge divides of culture and class. Some of that belief reflects in the way I've drawn her.”
Then yesterday, on facebook Manjul Bajaj posted this link that had appeared in the day’s Hindustan Times, a concise and positive review of her book.
One of the comments that followed said, “Nice review Manjul, I liked it better than I liked Saaz's” which made me giggle but also got me in touch with someone I’ve been out of touch with for years … how I love facebook!

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