Their daughters study in Miranda
House, while the sons go abroad and return to take over papa’s
business. The wives play cards in air-conditioned rooms, are
waited upon by handsome, uniformed (in bandgala coats)
servants and spend their evenings waiting for their husbands.
That these servants may also provide solace and comfort in their
‘lonely’ lives by giving them what they’re denied by their
husbands is quite all right as long as it remains a secret.
centres around the Malhotra family—Noni, Pammi and their son
Rattan, who, educated in the US, returns to marry the girl
carefully selected by Pammi—pretty, modern and just the right
notch beneath the Malhotra family. Things are hunky-dory for 3
months, then the girl dies, supposedly committing suicide by
hanging herself. The family is jolted out of its smug placidity,
especially Rattan, who had hitherto led a charmed life. The
situation is not made easier by the fact that ‘Sahayata’, an
NGO, led by a radical feminist, Meneka, has established itself
next door. To avoid the slogan shouting and scandal that ensues,
Rattan is procured a job in Cairo. It is here he meets Nalini,
the ambassador’s daughter, who has had to supplant her dead
mother as her father’s hostess, all the while longing for her
life in Delhi.
Thus begins the‘Indian
Love Story indicated in the title, of Rattan and the
conservatively brought-up Nalini. The twist in the tale occurs
when Meneka Saxena, a college friend of Nalini’s comes for a
visit to Cairo and confronts Rattan.
has ‘ gone by the book’ in her first novel. There are all
the elements that are prescribed for a novel. There is a story,
which is pleasant to read but not path-breaking in its scope and
originality, the characters sketched out with a few well-chosen
words, but who don’t really grow as the novel unfolds. The
plot that includes a murder and a love story and the setting
that alternates between Delhi and Cairo. Apparently comfortable
at both places, Delhi and Cairo, where she lived with her
diplomat husband, Singh’s sketch of Delhi definitely steals a
march over her picturisation of Cairo—" Nalini felt
herself there, on New Delhi’s streets, with their throngs of
people rushing to and fro, doing all the things that they had to
do. They were there in her mind’s eye, weaving through
perilous traffic, crossing roads, catching buses at chaotic bus
stops, walking the pedestrian walkways, stopping at fruit
vendors to pick up the odd banana, orange or guava, singing the
latest film song oblivious of others around, shouting out a
namaste to the taxi man on a cot under a tree, taking a
break from the afternoon heat.…"
does contrive to superimpose the grandeur and omniscience of the
Nile and the Pyramids, whenever she is able to do so, but Delhi
appears to be where her heart is.
doesn’t try her hand at a lot of philosophy or universality.
Nor does she try to mystify India or Indianness, in the manner
that too many Indian writers do. However, there is certain
superficiality about the novel that can be ignored by a person
who wants to read an interesting story, well written and edited.
Also, Singh doesn’t try to force the Indian idiom in her book.
This adds to the smooth flow of the novel, specially keeping in
view the class and time it deals with, but also tends to make
the book a trifle antiseptic.
Circles of Silence
could be the good read on a long train journey.