I think reading tends to be filled with peaks and valleys. This is especially true in the case of really long, epic sorts of reads like Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy with it's varied cast of characters and the way Seth moves from family to family with each new section (so far at least). I had been traversing peaks and happily so, so it was not so big a surprise when I thought I was finally facing a valley.
While section three was exciting with Lata's meeting of and realization that she is falling in love with Kabir Durrani, section four moves to a whole new part of the family tree. It's always fun to read about characters meeting and their attraction and then the drama of the family finding out and not approving (Lata's family being Hindu and Kabir's Muslim). But there is a lot of ground to cover and a lot of characters to meet and you know how the road to love and happiness (if she is really lucky) will be a long and rocky one.
We leave Lata dealing with her mother's anger and subsequent decision to move from Brahmpur where they had been living with Savita (her sister) and her husband Pran to Calcutta and the household of her older brother Arun. Off she goes. And now the reader is introduced to more of Pran's family. Veena is his older sister, and she is married to Kedarnath. They have one young (and very smart-mathematically) son, Bhaskar.
Shoes. Yes, shoes. That is the topic in section four. Sound sort of boring? Well, to be honest it did to me, too. But, careful. I was reading along with one eye on the page and another on the next section as I raced to get through what I thought was just a meandering chapter. You never know who you are going to meet, however, and how important they might be to the story. Case in point here. I had to go back and do a little rereading because I have decided that there is a reason we are now introduced to a new and seemingly totally unrelated character.
Okay, so I thought shoes, new male character, how important can he be. (Even with his rather natty winged brogues). I didn't even really pay much attention to the description of what he looks like. He is in Brahmpur for a few days to purchase materials for the business he works for--the Cawnpore Leather & Footware Company. He is an old friend of Kedarnath's so has come to stay with him and Veena for a few days while he takes care of business. So the business part is not terribly exciting, though I think I do need to go back and skim a bit as there are mentions of Partition and ethnic/religious relations which I think are indeed important (must get that love story off my mind--there is more to this story than just that).
It's just one or two small seemingly throwaway comments/thoughts on the part of Pran that caught my eye. He meets Haresh at a party and finds they both studied English Literature and while he is working in a shoe company now, he thinks he could make a good prospect for Lata . . . Such a pity Haresh is already spoken for. I wonder, though, will he end up being the "suitable boy"? Hmm.
Just to give you an idea of a potential suitor (if Pran indeed decides to meddle into the Mehra's affairs--he does have Lata's happiness in mind) let me share a description:
"Veena, for her part, could not help noticing that her husband's guest was a good-looking young man. Haresh was short, well-built without being stocky, fair in complexion, with a squarish rather than oval face. His eyes were not large, but they had a directness of gaze which she believed was a key to straightforwardness of character. Silk shirt and agate cuff-links she observed to herself."
And those natty brogues, too! I don't know. Would you go for cricket whites or those brogues and agate cuff-links. (Presupposing he becomes available). I guess I must read on to find out what is in store.
Part five is a longish section so I had better get started as soon as possible. I have only glanced at the coming pages, but I don't recognize any of the characters (perhaps back to the Kapoors), but as it starts with reference to riots I think it is time for politics and social climate of Misri Mandi and Brahmpur. I'll fill you in next week!