Just 200 pages into a book that is over 1,400 pages means it is still early days, but I am wondering now--why was it that I set Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy down those first two tries? Oh yes, it is really unwieldy to carry. That aside, however, I am so thoroughly enjoying it this time around that I mostly don't mind carry such a brick-like (shape and size not weight thankfully) around.
So, the third section is finished. I do want to try and read more than one section a week because the story is getting really good, but even at this slow but steady pace I do feel like I am making progress.
We've moved from the Kapoor family, Maan in particular and his burgeoning affair (is it a real affair or a brief romantic escapade? Hmm. I mean she must be some years older than he, and he is a student and she a courtesan . . . and now people are talking) back to Lata and the Mehras. Lata has done the unthinkable.
My teaser last week was the April Fool's joke of Pran's where he told her family she had eloped. Well, no worries there. Lata is a good daughter. Good in that she is not likely to elope, but she has fallen for a very unsuitable boy indeed. At least by the standards of her nice, middle class Hindu family. She is in love with a Muslim. This is 1950 remember. Perhaps a nice Indian girl might think more about studies and work and a taste of independence at this time (rather than a traditional arranged marriage), but surely she would not consider falling for a Muslim boy. I guess when you fall for someone you fall first and ask questions later, right? And it IS 1950. But it's a dilemma. Her friend Malati tells her to forget it. Her sister Savita will keep her secret (with reservations), but she is worried.
When she first meets this young man, really meets him (the exchanged words at the Imperial Book Depot not long ago), she feels a tingle. You know that feeling? That frisson that runs up the back of your neck? Exams have been going on. Lata doesn't quite know what has happened but she has lost her confidence and stares blankly at her exam paper. She's flustered when she leaves the building. And then, there he is again, not looking very confident himself. And later she thinks--
"What remained, however, was the memory that her initial nervousness at the young man's presence had ended in a sense of confused warmth: at least someone, if only a good-looking stranger, had understood that she had been bewildered and upset, and had cared enough to do something to lift her spirits."
It's not until a few days later, and that tingle, that Lata meets him one more time at a music recital. This time she boldly asks his name, but fearful will not exchange surnames. Kabir. He is, what I think might be termed in today's terms--a "hottie".
"Kabir was an inch or two under six feet, slim and athletic, with a 'fair to wheatish' complexion, an aquiline nose, and black, wavy hair."
Oh, and he plays cricket. I don't know if it is the same for men, but it might not be unheard of that when a young woman (could be speaking from experience here maybe) sees a young man she finds attractive and then finds out things about him, she might just become interested in some of the same things. Or at least 'educate herself' in those things. Lata knows nothing about cricket, but she becomes "drowsily entranced by the sight of Kabir, dressed completely in white, short unbuttoned at the collar, capless and with ruffled hair . . .". Yeah, I can see being entranced.
When Malati shares her 'investigative work' and tells Lata what his surname is, Durrani, it takes her a moment to work out what that means. A Muslim name. But it's too late. Malati tells her to forget it, get a good dose of P.G. Wodehouse to take her mind off her romantic woes and this, too, shall pass. Well, one Wodehouse down and another in hand and Lata is miserable over the fact that she feels she is in love, has exchanged a kiss and held hands, and suitable or not, she is not going to give him up.
Or, maybe, according to her mother, she is. Poor Lata. Calcutta bound--away from Brahmpur and her friends, mother, sister Savita and her brother-in-law, Pran. Somehow I think living with her elder brother Arun and his vapid wife Meenakshi is not going to be much fun.
It will take a section or two to find out, however. I've peeked at part four, which I shall be tackling this coming week, and the action moves back to the Kapoor family, but to Veena's world--Veena is Pran's sister. The cast grows and the drama continues!