SET against the backdrop of Goa – the land of sun, surf and sand, secluded coves and forested hills, where foreigners frolic on the beach without restraint, this is the story of an up-and-coming English lawyer named Alec, a Londoner, in his early thirties, who arrives in Goa when advised by his doctor friend, “Just drop everything and take off to somewhere remote. Alone! That’s the only remedy” for his heart murmur problem.
While roaming on the beaches of Goa with German hippies, Alec notices a 20-year old slim and willowy, golden-wheatish complexioned daughter of a Hindu landowner. She simply takes Alec’s breath away and he visits her house. Her mother Maushi notices the two exchange glances. Form thereon Alec becomes a regular visitor to the Hindu household where he loves discussing religion and dharma, Hinduism and moksha.
On the eighth day of his visit to Anu’s house, a thoroughly bewitched Alec asks her father for his daughter Anu’s hand in marriage. The family council is called that very night and it is reluctantly agreed to allow Anu to marry the foreigner. Anu is thrilled as she has been yearning for freedom of choice regarding her marriage partner. Her mother Maushi is happy at the marriage of her daughter. The newly married leave and return after two months to Maushi, with Anu looking glowingly pregnant. Alec wants her to have her delivery in Goa but Anu wants to get away from life all because, “you have no idea how oppressive it is for a woman over here.” But Alec, newly introduced to the rites and rituals of Hinduism, “not only found nothing wrong with them but defended them with the zeal of a neophyte.”
In the end, Ronnie goes to England, leaving his mother Elizabeth in a mental asylum in Goa and Meera flies off to Canada to begin a new life. Maushi becomes a widow as Baba dies – the Baba who had murmured to himself once that Anu “had no other recourse before her on discovering about Alec’s first wife.” Yet he was given to talking of family honour, much to Maushi’s disdain.
This is a very touching saga of the man’s world where, to quote Maushi, “they have only expounded my duties to me and those have been adjustment, submission and sacrifice. Sacrifice for the husband and for the sons,” while daughters and granddaughters have to sacrifice or be sacrificed.
(Niyogi Books, D-78 Okhla Industrial Area, Phase I, New Delhi – 110 020; www.niyogibooks.com)