Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Fire On The Mountain, Anita Desai

My Review-

Nanda Kaul has spent the prime of her life performing the duties of an ideal householder. Those days are now gone. The dusk of her life has arrived and she unlike others intends to spend it in complete solitude. Thereby she chooses to settle in Carignano in Kasauli far away from her children, grand children and the great-grand children. She is an indifferent woman who finds pleasure in the company of pine and cicadas and not amongst fellow humans. One fine day her inner peace is disrupted by a letter. Nanda, who flinched away by the arrival of the postman himself is equally disappointed by the contents of the letter which stated the arrival of her great grand-daughter Raka to spend the summer with her.
Raka, by nature is a reflection of Nanda. Her arrival in no way interferes with Nanda’s lifestyle. And since things don’t go the way Nanda expects them to, she feels drawn to Raka. A part of her wants to know her better for they seem a little too alike to her. She too finds solace in walking the woods and comes back before the sun sets.
Amidst everything so awkward, enters Ila Das, a NGO worker, a chatterbox of a woman coming to visit her friend after long. Her presence because of her nature however is not completely appreciated by both Nanda and Raka who consider her arrival as sheer interference into their lifestyle. She came over to spend the entire day and both Raka and Nanda begin to open up. And one night after Ila is gone, Nanda receives a phone call. And that phone call serves a perfect end to this mesmerizing tale.
As a reader I kept thinking of Nanda and Raka as the protagonists and sidelined Ila more because of her late arrival than because of her overfriendly nature. Of course no one would have thought to the tragic end. I mean I bet Anita Desai would have grinned to herself thinking “you didn’t see that coming, did you?” The initial part of the story of course combines the essence of solitude and womanhood but the end comes as a shocker! I’ve always loved Desai as a story teller. She makes me feel every emotion with her writing. I saw a pride in Nanda when the book began. As I went on, I realised how hollow she felt and how she tried to shield herself from the world. Later I saw Raka doing the same. I saw Nanda connect to Raka on a very soulful level. I saw Ila trying to break the barriers between both of them. And before I knew I had devoured the whole book.
Desai, her work, she leaves me agape, wanting for a little more.


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