The Hindi Bindi Club
Sabrina F Ahmad
Many South Asian writers writing about the immigrant experience seem to have this fascination with the theme of mother-daughter relationships. Consider Dina Mehta's Mila in Love, or Chitra B Divakaruni's Queen of Dreams. The search for one's identity, for a 'motherland' seems to be reflected in the struggles by the female protagonists in these stories. Continuing in this trend, although perhaps in a much lighter vein, is Monica Pradhan with The Hindi-Bindi Club.
The story features three mother-daughter pairs: the Marathi Meenal and her headstrong, recently divorced daughter Kiran, Swaroj from Punjab with her princess Priety, and the demure Bangali Uma with her weird and moody daughter Rani. Despite their diverse backgrounds, the mothers had been brought together during their early years as confused Indians, and formed a tight-knit community their daughters sarcastically dubbed the Hindi Bindi-Club. While everything on the surface seems all masala chai and bhangra music, each woman, both generations included, share a dark secret. These secrets are unveiled over one winter when a prodigal daughter returns to the bosom of her family.
Smarting from the humiliation of her divorce, Kiran returns home with her tail between legs, to eat crow pie and seek salvation in a practice she had always thought archaic and backward: the oh-so-dreaded Arranged Marriage. Expecting smugness from her long-suffering mother, she encounters selfless love instead, and uncovers Meenal's painful secret.
Perfect Priety, the apple of her parents' eyes and the envy of the traditional-minded first-generation Indian immigrants who despair of their 'westernized' offspring, has it all: a happy marriage, the perfect kids. When the lights go out, and the world is asleep, though, she wipes her content smile off her face and yearns for a long-lost love affair with a (gasp!) Muslim man. When she takes her troubles to her mother, Swaroj reacts with all the pain and indignation of someone who has lived through the horrors of the Partition. Not long afterwards, the mother is revealed (at least to the readers) as having double standards.
Finally, there's the moody artist Rani who seems to have lost her zest for life, and is inches away from utter despair. She runs home to Uma, who then provides us with a portrait of her own mother.
The conflicts presented at the beginning unravel and resolve themselves through some witty verbal badminton, age-old wisdom and a smattering of superstitious mumbo-jumbo, and a healthy helping of recipes. The plot is fairly predictable, and wraps up a little too conveniently, and there's not much by way of character development, but those are glitches only if you plan on taking it too seriously. It's meant to be a light, fun read, and delivers as such with aplomb.
So if you're looking for a fluffy and spicy read, keep this one in mind.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008