Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Random House India
Price: INR 499
My rating: 4.5/5
A journey that dates back to the times of the Naxalbari movement at the lowland, in an area of Calcutta called Tollygunge. This book by Jhumpa Lahiri talks less on emotion and more on practicality and selfish being of one of the main characters named Gauri. Without being impacted by melodramatic instances, the novel beautifully captures and enthralls you with different aspects of emotions at each level.
The detailed and accurate description of Tollygunge is splendid; “The flooded plain was thick with water hyacinth, which grew aggressively. Its leaves caused the surface to appear solid. Green in contrast to the blue of the sky.”
The story progresses describing the bond between the two brothers Udayan and Subhash in their childhood days. The beauty lies in the simplicity of deeds and actions that take place in Tollygunge between the two brothers. Their course of action seems realistic and easy to relate. With passing time, the differences grew between the two even more naturally. It’s usually observed that the siblings start having different ideologies with growing age, thus crops the difference and distance. Lahiri has crafted this transformation beautifully without any artificial embellishment of verbiage. In fact, the complete novel withholds immense description that’s surreal, but can connect you with the real world.
The dramatic contrast in relationships of the two brothers, mother and father, husband and wife, mother and daughter creates awe. It forces you to think how easily you can relate to it in today’s world, even though her story is based during the 20th century. Udayan, the elder one, being dead in the second half still holds importance throughout the story. He’s the protagonist in the real sense, though physically his role is minimal. Gauri, her wife marries his brother not out of love, but out of selfish motives. It’s astonishing to see a character so strong, outstanding wit, extraordinary practical, thankless and a truly self-centered woman like Gauri.
Lahiri has skills to make you feel a participant and you would feel the anguish and hatred for Gauri is so mean and using Subhash tactfully as a medium to get rid of her in laws and the place where she lost her husband, right before giving birth to Udayan’s child that she carried in her womb. The portrayal of a woman, who could change her appearance to mix in foreign culture just to escape from her past; who could leave not just the man who supported her in her bad times, gave father’s name to her daughter and later on even leaving her own daughter without a trace, is self exemplary to describe Gauri’s character.
The best and the most perfect contrast to Gauri are Subhash and Bela (Gauri’s daughter). They define loyalty, emotions, trust, and humanity in true sense. Bela, who would hate to think of her mother because she left her astray, probably at the growing age when she needed her most. The hatred was captured well at the end of the story at the time of Gauri’s confrontation with Bela. The cycle seems to complete at this juncture when Gauri sees and gets to know that her daughter too had a daughter, which means she was a grandmother now. However, no one else but she herself was the reason for the deprivation of the finest relationships on earth.
Jhumpa Lahiri is known to write in simple language, but this simplicity has so much of emotions engrossed and engraved in it. This is the fourth novel by Jhumpa is a tremendous display of encroachment of societal norms, not under helplessness or any dire situation, but to satiate the selfish motives of living the latter of your life on own terms just because the former did not turn out to be your way.
I personally loved the novel The Lowland as I see a multitude of variations in one’s mood, nature, choices and life as a whole. This is absolutely true and close to almost anyone on this planet. If we are humans, we got to be accepting the challenges in life. Everyone has their own ways to deal with them. The back and forth, the thud and thunder, the smooth landing back again is what makes or breaks someone. This book is an extraordinary journey through such remarkable events of life that touches your heart and soul, making you feel a part of the drama.
Image Courtesy: Google