Book Review: The Sari Shop
I loved the book in spite of the fact that it left me feeling a little defeated at the end at the futility of it all. I loved Ramchand, the main protagonist in this story – his life revolved around the sari shop and the tiny room he called home. Rupa Bajwa, very heartbreakingly, depicts Ramchand’s life and his isolation from the world in this book. His maternal uncle sends him to work at the Sevak Sari Shop to make do for himself, after Ramchand loses his parents at a young age. As a sales person in the Sari Shop, he caters to one small fragment of society – the over-indulged, the rich, bored females of the elite classes.
A series of events throw him – unassuming Ramchand – into contact with two females – one from the very elite classes and one, from among the downtrodden, ignored classes. As he resolves to relearn English with the help of books purchased at a second-hand book shop, his learning brings in him a new-found knowledge of the social disparities around him, his own life, and a restlessness that had always been there. He now yearns to do something – anything – to bring about change in the social hierarchy. As he is driven to action towards the end, there is a glimmer of hope briefly for the character. That hope is soon removed as he realizes the futility of his efforts and goes back to what once was – a life of monotony and nothingness.
The social hierarchy, the class divide is shown sometimes subtly with a touch of humor and sometimes cruelly in
different parts of the book – by showing Ramchand’s amazement when he sees that the saris he sells are actually worn by the women in a world he did not know existed; his wonder at reading and discovering about a bird called the penguin (this reality made me so sad); his confusion at reading letters in a letter-writing book he bought to teach himself English where strange places and words are mentioned; the treatment of Kamala by her husband and by the police; the snobbish intellectualism of Mrs.Sachdeva and the empty lives of the rich housewives; the escape sought by the lower-middle class in the darkness of movie halls where for brief moments they can be in the reel-world of Bollywood.
Rupa Bajwa manages to capture the spirit of the sari shop effortlessly while letting us peek into the everyday
lives of the shop salesmen and the patrons. We empathize, we cheer, we sneer and we laugh. Through her words, we hear the rustle of the silk saris and the crinkling of the crisp cotton saris. We can admire the detailed work and the beautiful colors of the saris.
Rating: B+This book goes towards the South Asian Challenge
Linking up to Three Word Wednesday (words are Bubble, Wreck, Lumber), ABC Wednesday (letter is B – for Bubble), Alphabe Thursday(letter is J – for Joy), Theme Thursday (word is balance)
|Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons
She sat down – amidst the wreck – looking all around her
This was her life, was it? Everything she held dear.
Should she get up, lumber her way through?
Should she even try? What good would it do?
As she sat there, she saw a memory – a tiny scrap of paper
A list she wrote long ago, of things she would do when she
grew – just a little older
A bubble of hope, of joy rose within her, grew until she
could contain it no more,
Joy and hope – these two would help hold her balance should she falter and help her fight.
Joy and hope, her friends from long ago; they were still there, amidst the wreck, still shining bright!