The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, March 9, 2003

Love, however unlikely, does find a way
K. Rajbir Deswal

Yadav — A Roadside Love Story
by Jill Lowe. Penguin. Pages 279. Rs 250

Yadav -- A Roadside Love StoryTHE amorous tale of a 40-plus hard-boiled Haryanvi man and a 50-plus dyed-in-the-wool English woman is a pleasurable, picaresque odyssey showcasing the realities of the cold climes of England and the warmth of the subcontinent.

Jill Lowe, an upper-class woman and mother of five, is a tourist guide who loses her possessions and is separated from her husband who goes bankrupt. Her life becomes a series of bills, payments, visits from bailiffs, nervous breakdowns and apprehension regarding the upbringing and education of her children.

Lal Singh Yadav is a widower, father of four and grandfather of five. He is a happy-go-lucky taxi driver who lives with his large family on his farm in Haryana near Delhi. Although simple-hearted, he is a rough, uncouth, foul-mouthed drunkard.

The chemistry between the two is not surprising given their physical proximity. Jill had spent over 15 years in the company of Bobs and Johns, Eds and Bills, Joes and Kevs — all bus-drivers. But in the case of Yadav, Jill confessed, there existed "…a magical, inexorable cord that draws two people together."

Jill faces her ordeals and at 52, chooses to visit India, which in her friend’s words was ‘almost like a disease but quite a nice one’, since she knew nothing about it. She wanted to prove to her ex-husband that she was just as capable of coping with life on the subcontinent as he had apparently been. There she met Yadav, who besides driving her on bumpy Indian roads, offered to double up as her friend, philosopher, guide and ultimately husband.


Jill describes her encounters with people with the precision of a keen observer. Her travels to Indian tourist locations with Yadav and the travails of the life she has left behind makes her want to "begin life on a fresh page and wait how did the things progress."

Of her interaction with Yadav’s family on his farm, she only says that she had to brave inhospitality. With restraint she describes licentious men who lose no opportunity to pounce on White women.

Only a hug and a kiss that Yadav gives Jill sets their journey apart form other similar journeys until the night they have to share one room at Orchha in Madhya Pradesh. This incident changes forever the course of their lives. After that Jill hops between England and India and Yadav, an alcoholic, gradually slips into depression. They try unsuccessfully to keep their relationship secret because they are not able to find a suitable date and place for their marriage ceremony.

Ultimately their love story has a happy ending when they get married. They then rent out a flat in Delhi. Jill loving care cures Yadav of depression, who is able to fulfill his dream of travelling to England despite initially facing problems in getting a visa.

The epilogue explains Jill’s attitude towards life when she says: "But most of all, it is an escape from loneliness, the aching loneliness of unshared problems, the loneliness of not quite belonging anywhere."

Jill’s attention to details while describing various Indian cities and towns is superb. Her 20 or so years’ experience as a tourist guide is reflected in her account of the beauty of the land she adopts as her own when she leaves behind a "shivering London, where she could not bring herself to be part of the grey middle slice of life."