Shubha Sarma captures the spirit and nerve of an Indian Joint family in Awasthis of Aamnagri
Awasthis of Aamnagri
Author- Shubha Sarma
Publisher- Niyogi Books, Block D, Building No. 77, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase - I, New Delhi- 110020
By Shubh Mathur
In the dusk of their career, many IAS officers attempt to write books, most falling into the non-fictional genre for they are an account of their personal experiences written for the admirers and aspirants of civil services. To know that the writer of this fictional novel is a member of administrative services herself was an instant surprise and a trigger for me to pick it up, and, thankfully, I was not disappointed.
Set in the backdrop of 1975, the story (collection of stories) revolves around an elite joint family of lawyers headed by the progressive patriarch and the protagonist- Pandit Dinanath Awasthi. The book explores the relationships between the members of the house in an old fashioned way bringing all our conceived notions into the picture. Interestingly, the stories are also a satirical comment on various matters- how we, sometimes, take relationships for granted, believe in godman more than rationale and wreak havoc on the biodiversity for petty material gains. There are many ways in which the reader would be able to relate to the stories. For example- the subtle aspects of the relationship between the mother-in-law and the daughters-in-law, the reception of an NRI family, and the power tussles between the sons of the house.
To make things easier for the readers of English, the book deserves special mention for giving out a glossary of some local Hindi terms. The narrative is concise and entirely captivating with none loose ends. Especially, the last story- ‘Mataji’s Quietitude’ is the one to be mentioned. It is about those internal dissenting voices that slowly turn a joint family into segregated nuclear families- the fate of the majority of big families today. The author has skillfully captured the loneliness of the elder members that languish in the absence of companionship. As real as it can get, it is equally rousing, sweet, and funny.
To sum up, the book will make up an interesting read for both- those who have gotten grey and wish for a dose of nostalgia and the high school kids looking to explore a lively joint family in the era of 2020.