When lovers meet after 35 long years

Srushti Dhoke’s novel Tamarind Ache has simple format and setting as well as smooth flow to the narrative, writes Humra Quraishi

Tamarind Ache is a love story with a difference. After all, the two former lovers get to see and meet each other after a gap of 35 long years and too in an absolutely non-romantic scenario. Only to part once again. Nah, not along a contrived format, but more along the strain of those human situations which overtake all possible intentions and interventions.

In fact, as one reads through this novel what hits is the very end to it or call it the very climax, as it brings along an array of emotions. Somehow whilst reading through the last few pages to this novel, I got so carried away that I kept thinking of my first love. Of course, I wasn’t fortunate enough as the protagonist of this novel, to have managed to have re-met my first love, but all those memories held sway, with nostalgia clasping me tight.

In fact, what I loved about Srushti Dhoke’s novel is the simplicity of the format and setting and, of course, the very flow to the narrative. It’s not high pitched nor over the top, and with that the emotional strain holds high right till the very end. And much in keeping with this backgrounder, the love story isn’t complex or complicated; on the contrary, simple and revolving around the simple basics to the human wants. Topping the list, emotions and emotional wants, which far exceed all other wants.

And much in keeping with the un-complicated format, Srushti has based her novel in the rural India and that in itself is one of those vital factors that add to the connect. Just in case it was based in New York or in New Jersey then, for very obvious reasons, there could have been obstacles coming in way to the very connect… Mind you, though this young author is a freshman at Boston University, Massachusetts, USA, pursuing economics and mathematics, but she visits her grandparents’ home in their village in Maharashtra once every year.

Quite obviously, rural settings have left deep imprints so as to form the very backbone to her debut novel.

In fact, she has very deftly managed to web and inter-web  those everyday details to rural settings and around the characters who hold out in the novel.

Yes, all the mundane manages to stand out, through a tapestry of descriptions and dialogues and the relevant interplay of human emotions. I only wish she had somewhat elaborated on the story and also added some more flesh to her characters. Perhaps, in her next novel. As of now this touching story does touch the heart to such an extent that I had to ask this young author via email (as she’s in the United States and I’m here in India) this relevant query- Why did you think of writing this touching love story …what made you or say provoked you to write this love story? And this is what she had to detail –

“When I first started writing Tamarind Ache, I didn’t have a clear storyline in my head; it was a surprise even to me when the story took a turn towards love. The main idea behind writing Tamarind Ache was to depict what life in a village is like from the perspective of the people who live it, and so Tamarind Ache is a story based entirely on real events. Every little aspect of every event in the book has been picked straight out of the stories that my grandparents have told me about the village that they live in and about their fellow villagers, and also out of my own experiences in the village. And so, just like everything else, the love story too was greatly inspired by a true story that my grandmother had told me when I was a kid.

“I remember being absolutely dumbfounded; it was a story that seemed much like a fairytale, but with a sad ending. The fact that the narration had actually been someone’s life pinched my heart, and I could never truly get over the way that life sometimes plays out. I strongly felt that this was a story to be remembered, and it is perhaps because of this imprint that it had on me that as soon as I realised that Tamarind Ache was going to have love as a theme, I decided to make it the frame of my work.”

♦ ♦ ♦

And I cannot end this review without focusing on the foreword to this novel, where Ruskin Bond minces no words in putting love high up, there on the pedestal. To quote him, “Falling in love is one of the most inspiring experiences for a young writer; it brings along with it a certain kind of spontaneity and intensity…” Bond being Bond, is forthright in stating that he hasn’t been lucky in matters of love, “I have had an old love or two. But I shall not take the luxury of calling myself lucky in love. Because if I were that lucky, I wouldn’t be a bachelor today…would I?”… He leaves us a verse which is provocative enough for us to go looking for love…finding love before falling in love!

“Somewhere in life

There must be someone

To take your hand

And share the torrid day

Without the touch of love

There is no life, and we must
fade away.”