Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Unfulfilled Pleasure of “The Pleasure Seekers”

Dissatisfied. In a strange way, that is how I felt after finishing Tishani Doshi’s brilliant debut novel, “The Pleasure Seekers.” How is it possible to feel ‘dissatisfied’ about something you loved so much? Well, when you read the last line of the book and wonder, “What theeee...???” in a despairing kind of way and not an angry kind of way...it’s a compliment to the author. It means you didn’t want the book to end. You want to know what happens next. You feel as if you’ve been violently torn away from a loving, caring foster family and put out to soak in ice-cold rain. It means you hope that there is a sequel in the future.

“The Pleasure Seekers”, in the author’s own words, is a “love letter to [her] parents”. This gem of a book was inspired by the enduring romance and real-life love story of Doshi’s Welsh mother and Gujrati father.

In the book, when Babo first meets Sian in London, he falls for her and he falls hard. The good Gujju boy and the lovely Welsh girl soon become lovers and soul-mates. Forced apart by Babo’s conservative parents, their love for each other is put to the test by a trial separation for six months. Their story, their gargantuan love, their undying devotion to each other is central to the book. It is their story that the other characters in the book, want to live. That sparkle, that jhimak-jhimak that they radiate, the jhil-mil of their smiles as they look at each other adoringly, the sha-bing sha-bang sessions that hold them together...everybody wants that (hell, even I do!) and that’s what they all set out to find for themselves. Whether it’s Babo’s younger brother Chotu, who looks for love in all the wrong places; or Babo and Sian’s elder daughter Mayuri, who believes she has found it in the arms of their gentle neighbour, Cyrus; or whether it is their younger daughter, Bean, who sets out to discover herself and to star in her own epic love story...it is the shadow of Babo and Sian’s relationship that sets the bar for everyone.

Tishani Doshi is a genius new voice and we can expect more masterpieces from her. She knows her craft well and her writing has that enviable quality of poetic lyricism about it which makes her works a gentle yet powerful read. Her words, images and characters stay on with you days after you finish that last line.

And hence, that dissatisfaction. Of wanting more and knowing that you can’t get any.

(This book is reviewed by Baisali Chatterjee Dutt. Baisali blogs at http://mammamiameamamma@blogspot.com)