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Book Review : Saraswati Park
The plot delineates the story of a middle-aged couple, their nephew and all the things that define their very existence. Mohan Karekar is a letter writer in Mumbai, whose spouse Lakshmi is the quintessential housewife. There are certain things about each other that annoy them, but compromises are made and this relationship is nurtured. It starts with vivid descriptions of Bombay (The grand VT station, tempting sight of booksellers at Flora fountain, The General Post office, et al. ), as it was decades ago, successfully makes itself relevant and forges a deep connection with just any Mumbaikar, inducing elements of recognition and reminiscence. Enter Mohan’s 19 year old nephew Ashish who has flunked his final year in B.A. No he’s not the brat, nor is he irresponsible. The reason lies in negligence and his hangouts with his super rich friend Sunder. He likes him. And he soon finds out, Sunder has a thing for him too. This relationship is a truth about Ashish that he has somewhere accepted. But that doesn’t last.
This feeling of hurt constantly nags him enough to drift away from studies. Mohan, realizing something’s wrong with his nephew suggests a tutor, Professor Narayan. The tutor with his charm and aura, physically titillates Ashish. And surprisingly, reciprocates the unrequited love. Meanwhile, Mohan tries to pursue his unfulfilled dream of writing a book which leaves him little time for his wife. The epitome of this book is brought out when Lakshmi’s brother satish passes away and leaves his possessions entitled to Ashish. Lakshmi can’t hold on any more. She moves away to her relatives’ place, with the excuse of being there for her yet another ailing brother.
After a spell of separation, truths are realized and embraced. Professor dumps Ashish for the stark unacceptable thing they share. Ashish is heart broken but with the help of a friend, matures and move on. Mohan reminisces about his happier days with his life and tries to understand what made her drift away. He goes and convinces her to get back to where they belong, to their apartment in Saraswati Park.
Mohan, Lakshmi and Ashish could be anywhere around us. They might be your neighbors or the family that lives 3 miles away. The beauty of this story lies in the simplicity of its characters and untold compromises that reign our everyday life. The story also manages to touch on the complicated topic of homosexuality with tranquil flow and adequate subtlety. Its not the very core of the plot but Joseph makes sure it is noticed and thought upon.
The book has it share of criticisms and applauds. If you are the one who likes to explore disparate literary contributions, unconventional plots and writing styles, you might as well pick up this book with assuredly.