Exploring love: Kishwar Desai's new novel
Origins of Love, Kishwar Desai, Simon & Schuster, Pp 470 (HB), Rs 350.00
Here is a story, woven into different plots before being strung together to form one whole, by a successful television presenter and executive in India for 25 years. She is married to economist Lord Meghnad Desai.
There is Simran Singh, a middle-aged meddlesome social worker and pre-menopausal single parent to a 14-year old girl she has adopted. This girl is called Durga who had served a term in jail in Jullundur after she was falsely accused of being a murderess.
Thousands of miles away in South London, Kate and Ben long to have a child, though for different reasons. Despite all their efforts, fate seems to be skewed against them. Kate has had two miscarriages and is again pregnant but has an ectopic pregnancy for which she is advised complete rest. One day while shopping, she has her third miscarriage when she decides that something has to change. But will her desire for a baby stop at nothing?
There is the customs officer, Diwan Nath Mehta and his ambitious wife who want to move among the who’s who of Mumbai and have no child. Diwan Nath gets embroiled in an attempt to make money from the embryos that are imported into India in the hope of fulfilling his wife’s desire to be counted among the rich.
Sonia is one of the surrogate mothers who thinks that by selling her womb at the IVF clinic she can collect enough money that would help her escape from her abusive boyfriend and return to her parents.
Dr Subhash Pandey and his wife Dr Anita Pandey run an IVF clinic called Madonna and Child. They have a junior partner Dr Ganguly, who has studied many aspects to the business of assisted reproduction, especially its secrets and methodology. The clinic can store sperms and eggs for half the price that has to be paid abroad, with a nice profit as well.
Dr Anita is in charge of collecting embryos coming from Britain. One day when she goes to collect the consignment of embryos that has arrived, the middleman Ali starts playing a game with her in the hope of extracting more money from her. A baby daughter is conceived via in vitro fertilisation and the surrogate mother Preeti is kept in the clinic for complete nine months and after the delivery, she mysteriously disappears. The English couple, Mike and Susan arrives, to take back the child, but they are shocked to learn that the baby daughter is HIV positive when neither Mike nor Susan shows any HIV strains.
(Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 1st Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8HB; www.simonandschuster.co.uk)
The Young Turks’ Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, Taner Akcam, Princeton University Press, Pp 483 (HB), $39.50
The demise of the Ottoman Empire was a one-act drama that lasted a century, with a changing cast of players re-enacting the same scenes over and over. As the great empire crumbled, a succession of ethnic and religious groups played out their struggle for independence on its shrinking stage against a backdrop of forced population exchanges, deportations, massacres and ethnic cleansing.
As the last great early modern empires, the Ottoman state entered its long 19th century, trailing the heritage of Byzantium but lacking the means of modernisation. Without the requisite political and social structures and public consensus of a nation-state, “the Muslim Third Rome” could no longer bind together the diverse groups that peopled its vast territory.
As the Ottoman Empire devolved into nations-states, ethnic and religious groups, which had been living side by side in the same villages, towns and regions from the Balkans eastward, now broke into violence, wars and revolutions, leading to brutally suppressed rebellions, forced population exchanges, deportations, ethnic cleansing, massacres and genocide which concluded in 1923 with the treaty of Luassane, thus providing for the independence of modern Turkey. The first narrative in the book is associated with the Muslim Turkish communities who came to identify themselves with their otherwise cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic Ottoman rulers. The Muslim Turks believed that they founded their republic after a life-or-death struggle against the Great Powers and their treacherous collaborators, the Ottoman Christians whose sole aim was to wipe the Ottoman state and Muslim Turks from the face of the earth.
The demise of the empire is viewed by the author as a positive development of the national liberation struggle against the oppressive Ottomans, that is, the “Turks”. The result of all this was that the Muslims criticised the Great Powers “for intervening too much, while the Ottoman Christians faulted them for not having intervened enough.”
The author’s aim is to emphasise the reality of the Armenian genocide as seen in the context of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire into nation-states. It was certainly a clash between the Empire’s Muslim groups (ethnic Turks, Kurds, Circassians and others), who were regarded as “Turks” against the Christian elements (Armenians, Greeks and Syriacs).
(Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey – 08540.)