Book Review

        Book   Review From A Mentor, Coordinator & A Voracious Reader   

Dr.Mamta Banerjee

                                                                                This novel of India beautifully embodies the art and craft of storytelling as Mehta (Karma Cola;Raj) portrays diverse lives touched by the river Narmada, a holy pilgrimage site ``worshipped as the daughter of the god Shiva.'' At the heart of the work is an unnamed retired civil servant, the narrator,A sutradhaar, or narrator, is one who threads a story together, while also being at its source. who desires only the peace and quiet of a contemplative life on the river. His neighbour, a religious teacher, and comments: “Don't you realize you were brought here to gain the world, not forsake it?'' That world shows up in the form of various seekers--among them, a monk, an executive, a courtesan--whose stories occupy separate chapters but are seamlessly woven into the main narrative for our delight and edification (as the ``sutra'' of the title implies).
 Perhaps the most beautiful vignette is ``The Musician's Story,'' in which an 18-year-old sitar player, daughter of a famous musician and teacher, comes to the river seeking relief from the ache of unrequited love. The music of India, the raga, figures prominently in other chapters too. As characters reveal the pleasure and pain that have shaped their lives, Mehta discloses the wonders of this country--the Jain religion; savory samosas and pickled mangoes; bazaars where one can choose from ``glass bangles,'' ``clouds of spun sugar'' or ``a bar of soap with a film star's face on the wrapping.'' Mehta does not avoid the controversies of life in her homeland, including the caste system and political/religious rivalries; rather, she willingly exposes its complexities.
The reason why this book of Gita Mehta is one of my favourite…because one story leads to another, each more unsettling and savage than the last. There are but half a dozen stories, all delving into what the old mullah, giving a clue at the beginning, calls "the secrets of the human heart"…. taking you into the labyrinths of mysticism…

“The extraordinary thing about inventing a persona is that one is loathe to give it up, especially if the fiction sits comfortably.” 

― Gita Mehta, A River Sutra


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