At some point in the story, where something scandalous has already unfolded, this paragraph appears involving the two brothers, of which, one is a narrator –
Sree didn’t say anything. I’d rather he turned mad. I wanted to both punch him and be punched by him. I felt that if we punched each other just the right way, certain words would come tumbling out and everything would be all right.’
And there is where the strength of the novel lies – dishing out the tensest of situations with an unapologetic dollop of wry humor. How else can one handle the stress and agony that befalls a conservative family when a sex tape of one of its children finds its way on internet?
The younger brother, from whose lens we view the whole story, finds himself caught in this circle of questioning and explaining when an intimate moment of Sree and Anita is captured anonymously and leaked into the world wide web. While the boys’ Appa and Amma, after the initial shock of the discovery, hover gingerly near the arc of grief – beginning with denial, anger and bargaining – they holler right back to anger as a mark of rebellion, before succumbing to acceptance. The girl’s Appa and Amma are made of similar cloth but dyed in a different factory for they ferry around acceptance first and keep reaching for a bargain relentlessly. Because the shame brought by a daughter is worse than the son, no?
This journey is, however, fraught with moments of face-offs and tempers, teases and helplessness, magnanimity and petulance, disdain and care, all set on a canvas that is a terrific reflection of the intergenerational dynamics in Indian society where moral policing can lead to disastrous results, affecting as far as a lifetime.
Despite the seriousness of the central theme, the story has many lighter and tender moments which makes it akin to life. So, like under a fluctuating light, my heart chuckled and smiled with the high beams, knowing very well that the light shall eventually turn off and leave behind a different kind of pall for me to navigate.
But don’t read for me. Read it for Appa and Amma. Read it for Sree and Anita. Read it for Sree’s younger brother. Read it for the banality of effort. Read it for the resilience of bonds. But above all, read it for love – in all its forms, when it is having fun outdoors as well as when it is suffocating behind doors.