Literary masterpiece: an Indian THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Lyrical, mystical, philosophical, hilarious, grotesque, compelling
Chastening reminder of moral vitality and India's freedom struggle
Subliminal lament to honourable intentions long forgotten by political heirs
In this intimate portrait of a Brahmin family during the last years of British colonial rule of India, we follow the lives of Cambridge educated Sir Saraswati Chandra Ranbakshi and his three children: the willful, daring Maneka; her docile sister Sita; and the middle sibling, their brother Yogendra. Running through it all, is Sir Saraswati’s battle to resolve affection for Britain with his belief in the ideals of the Mahatma.
As the children grow up, their father balances the requirements of state maharaja with those of viceroy. Meantime, Sita waits patiently for life; Maneka, betrayed by her lover, becomes mistress of the eerie Nadir Palace and falls under suspicion of murder; Yogendra tumbles into love with a lower caste girl. The latter event determines the family’s future: Sir Saraswati supports the young couple, seeing their union as a metaphor for a united India. As the writer sets out the ideals of India sixty years ago, he offers a dignified reproach to its politicians today.
His book is a final adieu to the ‘great Indian Raj novel’, as well as an homage to traditions that gave meaning to people’s lives. We will not see the like again.