IN this compilation of 15 stories, the lives of Indian women beginning from 1919 till today, from India to Canada to the US, are presented in insightful and moving narrations. Baldwin, recipient of numerous awards including the Nehru Award, Commonwealth Prize for Best Book, etc. examines the bruises and wounds faced by immigrant Sikhs who try to live in English-speaking North America. While devoting loving attention to details of tradition and culture, she narrates stories that are both emotionally and politically loaded and rich in cultural insights. The stories often revolve around clashes of culture and values within families as the members struggle to adapt to life in North America. For instance, in the story titled ‘Rawalpindi 1919’, the mother realises that learning English and going abroad change relationships for the person who leaves and for family members who stay on. The story is narrated in the first person using interior monologue.
In the story titled ‘Nothing Must Spoil This Visit’, Janet is married to Arvind who is a Sikh. It is a story about individual rights versus family honour. Janet is a well-meaning romantic whose blithe assumptions are challenged by the idea that her happiness is founded on Chaya’s unhappiness when she doesn’t know the whole story.
In this collection, through the eyes of the women who are adjusting to change, we see a world whose familiar rhythms mask dissonance and discord. Essentially the stories are about Sikh women trying to keep their identity and their role at the cost of integration into the new world; how colonisation survives in the minds of the colonised and how the women confront the twin fears – fear of freedom and of the ‘other’.
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