Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 04/12/17 12:35 PM

Book review: Things To Leave Behind by Namita Gokhale

This is more a brief take than review.

Things to leave behind by Namita Gokhale.  Penguin Viking

This is the third and final volume of Gokhale`s  Himalayan trilogy,  A Himalayan Love Story and Book of Shadows being the first two. However, I write of this as a standalone story, which it is.

After I turned the last page of this book, I was struck by an epiphany of sorts. You know how it is when the characters in a book fail to grip you but you keep reading?

That was what happened with me here. The paced telling of the story of Jayesh, his albino wife Deoki, her irrepressibly different mother Tillotama, and a handful of others, did not really draw me into its fold, get  me too involved in what happened to them. But their lives were set in in the hills of Kumaon, in what one character calls the Lake District of the region, and in retrospect, that was the hook. The descriptive passages of the hills, the lakes, the stands of deodhar, the snow-spiked mountain breezes, are all beautifully drawn.

Through the events that unfold in the lives of the three main characters mentioned above, we observe  the changes that happen in Kumaon, where the winds of freedom have started to blow, mixed in with the mountain zephyrs. And so we roam `Naineetal` where the goddess Sati`s eyes have fallen, according to legend; we   learn how the Kathmandu rulers of yore had kept Kumaon on a tight, even cruel  leash; we view the splendours of the province  (lost now, as anyone who has visited Nainital or Almora in recent years will vouch);  we watch as, in the period between 1840 and 1912, the British gain a firmer hold but also try to run things with some amount of discipline and decorum.

Ultimately, though, one wishes that Gokhale had added more depth to characters as interesting as the borderline eccentric Tilottama, the  flirtatious pretty daughter of a missionary called Gloria, even the artist William Dempster,  who starts to create a startling work of art using Deoki as his model and muse.

Namita Gokhalesocio-political history of KumaonThings to Leave Behind

Sheila Kumar • April 12, 2017

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