November 13, 2013 by thejalebichronicles
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Terin Miller’s debut novel promises readers an adventure but ultimately disappoints. The book is said to be about Meetha Sharma, an educated Indian woman in nascent, independent India who longs to fulfil her desires while struggling to battle society’s traditional image of an ideal Indian woman in 1980 in Kashi, also known as Benares.
What I Liked:
The book starts off beautifully and urges you to sit down in a quiet corner, turning page after page in quick succession. The author’s elaborate and vivid description of Benares (synonymous for Kashi,) leaves the reader spell bound. He describes the Ram Lila festival and the rituals that it entails and thus offers the reader a glimpse of the Hindu culture so widely prevalent in our country. The writer’s style is enjoyable if not thoroughly entertaining. I particularly appreciated the relationships he so carefully tried to expand upon, particularly the relationship between the narrator John Colson, a journalist from the United States of America and Liz Aven, a young American lady working on her dissertation. Towards the end, the reader is drawn into complicity with the protagonist Meetha Sharma and longs for her to attain happiness after the ordeals she has been through. Perhaps the author does succeed in portraying the struggle of a woman in a rigid and patriarchal society.
What I Didn’t Like:
The book is very flawed, for a variety of reasons. For starters, the story barely stays true to the blurb provided. The entire book seems to be about John Colson and his acquaintances- Rajan, Bardus, Liz Aven and Meetha Sharma rather than Meetha Sharma alone. The promised struggle between the ‘old world’ ideals and her desire to live a more westernized life only manifests itself in a few pages. The plot barely holds and seems to be constantly falling apart. The reader reaches the crux of the book only by the time they have gone past 120 pages (the book has 175 pages in all). None of the characters are even remotely appealing. At certain moments, the author seems to be adding sentences and words to fill blank pages -“My coffee came. It was in a stainless steel mug. I took a sip. It was hot.”
We’re Left With…
Overall, Kashi is an average read with some interesting elements interspersed into the story line. Pick it up if you want a quick read with some interesting dialogue and a glimpse of Indian society in the 1980’s.
Buy Kashi for just Rs. 158 !
– Abisha Fernandes