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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carol Smallwood Reviews Memoir by Supriya Bhatnagar

and then there were three
Supriya Bhatnagar
Serving House Books, Lexington, KY
2010
119 pages
$12.00 (paper)

ISBN: 978-0-9825462-9-1

Reviewed by Carol Smallwood


The memoir, and then there were three, is a slim book, a breathtaking look at a childhood in a diverse, changing India by Supriya Bhatnagar. The three refers to the family loss of her beloved father when Supriya was nine and her mother moves the two daughters from Bombay to Jaipur: "Even though Jaipur was a metropolis where streets had been paved, the city retained the inherent quality of the earth it lay upon."

Indian culture is deftly expressed by funerals, tea, shopping, street cleaners, and details such as her grandmother's hair: "This had been her hairstyle since the time she got married; it was just that the chignon was the size of a grapefruit when she got married, and the size of a walnut by the time she died." Supriya experiences the blackouts of the 1971 war with Pakistan, the heat and cold of India, and learns the significance of skin color. The haunting memoir includes universal types such as nosey neighbors, lecherous storekeepers--and what it was to be Hindu woman and not going into any temple during her menstruation: "Customs and traditions become ingrained in us to such an extent that to this day I follow this restriction without questioning its logic."

The author does not have an arranged marriage but after a long traditional courtship marries Anil who lives on the next street: "I loved the smell of Old Spice, his after-shave, and it was a familiar and strangely comforting smell as Daddy had used it everyday." She concludes that the loss of her 39-year-old-white collar worker father from heart attack made her grow up sooner.

It reminded me of God of Small Things by the award-winning Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, with its insight into human nature, the portrayal of the enduring complexities of India, its touches of humor, life through a child's eyes. I enjoyed the author's sharing her wide reading and deep appreciation of the classics growing up and concluded how her well-educated parents couldn't but have had an influence on her becoming the Director of Publications for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs headquartered in Virginia which supports writers and writing programs around the world.
The reviewer is Carol Smallwood. Her latest books are: Writing and Publishing: The Librarian's Handbook (ed.), American Library Association, 2010; Lily's Odyssey, All Things That Matter Press, 2010.
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1 comment:

Nikki said...

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