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Published on: 09/29/21 5:51 AM

Book review: The Heart Asks Pleasure First by Karuna Ezara Parikh

In her remarkable debut work THE HEART ASKS PLEASURE FIRST, (Picador India Books) Karuna Ezara Parikh takes the reader gently by the hand and leads them to a circular house in `Lalabad` where they meet the wonderful Gyan and Asha and their daughter Daya; then across the border to Pakistan where they meet Aaftab preparing to go to the United Kingdom for `further studies;` then across to Cardiff in Wales where they watch a love story blossom, which holds in it all the kindling necessary for a conflagration.
In the best of times, if best is indeed the word I’m looking for, a Hindu-Muslim romantic relationship is a fraught one; add the detail of an Indian Hindu-Pakistani Muslim to the mix, and it goes beyond fraught.
The story is set in the early 2000s and while love in the times of intolerance unfolds slowly, sweetly, the reader takes in details of life as a minority, of a brown-skinned human amidst white-skinned ones, of imams who preach love and peace/ hatred and war in the local mosque, of the search for identity and belonging, of another Pakistani man who `understood the dark threads in the fabric of his religion but was so engaged in the peaceful side of it that it often took him by surprise to know that was not what the world thought of it.`
One line in particular stayed with me, stays with me still. `And the new imam lit the tail of hate that people had so far kept neatly behind them, and it rose up like a torch, and set fire to the sky.`
A line that now applies to both this country as well as that one.
fictionHindu-Muslim love storyIndia-Pakistan love storyKaruna Ezara Parikhlove storyPicador IndiaThe Heart Asks Pleasure First

Sheila Kumar • September 29, 2021


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