Dehra Dun-born and naturalized American research scientist Neerja Raman has now assumed a new avatar as an iconic storyteller. Her latest book The House on East Canal Road has been widely praised both by the critic and the literati alike. A book review by Raj Kanwar
THIS historical novel tells the story of three generations of the Chand family from 1905 onward when its hometown Dehra Dun with the rest of the country was in rebellion against the imperialist rule of the British government. The businesses owned by the family patriarch Kishan Chand were then the largest employer in the valley. His forte was in the designing and construction of canals particularly in consonance with Dehra Dun’s unique topography and ambience. His own expansive house on East Canal Road that sat on two lush acres was both a source of envy and admiration in equal measure.
A lingering tragedy in Kishan Chand’s life was the death at child birth of his dearest wife, Radha. The son born was named Ishaan, but there was no happiness in Kishan Chand’s life. He lost interest in business, and listlessly spent his days. Unable to live without Radha, Kishan Chand left Dehra Dun to spend some time with his friend Moti Lal, a leading Allahabad lawyer who had just then become father of a girl named Leela. Then there in Allahabad, the two friends became prospective in-laws; Moti Lal agreeing to marry his newly-born daughter to Kishan Chand’s son who was then just about four. The Gauna was to be performed several years later when the daughter is physically and emotionally mature enough.
Raman has written a fast-paced story with many twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing what happens next. The family’s personal struggles are seamlessly woven into the turbulent landscape of emerging India from 1900-1947 and the historical context is a perfect background on how to overcome challenges by staying true to yourself. Raman has also captured the emergence of the Indian educated middle class and its role in bringing together people of different ethnicities and religions. There is a lot to learn in this slim novel and even more to love.
Neerja was born and raised in Dehra Dun. Her father Prof. KC Gupta had taught Chemistry both at the DAV College and the Doon School. Neerja too has had her education at the Doon School, and later at the Delhi’s famed Miranda House. Essentially, a research scientist, Neerja was inducted into the Women in Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame for her leadership and mentoring women in workplaces. Her debut fiction Moments in Transition had garnered awards in the Literary Fiction category. She had retired from Hewlett-Packard Labs as a Director in 2006, and as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Stanford University in February 2022. She and her husband Vasan Raman now live in Los Altos Hills in California.
Title: The House on East Canal Road
Author: Neerja Raman
Publisher: ARCHWAY Publishing
Price: $13.99 /Rs.939