A plethora of visions
Himmat Singh Gill

Blind Faith
by Sagarika Ghose. HarperCollins. Pages 273. Rs 295.

Blind FaithTHIS is a novel about many plots, many characters and many messages, and it goes to the credit of Sagarika Ghose that, whether on the banks of the Ganges at the Kumbh or on a burning beach at Alqueria in Goa, she is able to paint life in raw reality and confront readers with the eternal truth that "without oneís own true vision, one may as well be blind".

The physically blind Indi, has a lopsided vision of her mortality and beauty; the father fixated Mia, in trying to understand her fatherís parting painting, loses for good her corporate make-up-selling husband, who in another form is also the king of her wild fantasies and her lover; and a practical, recently widowed Mithu, who knows both her aspirations and limitations, decides to cut loose in New York with another husband in tow. She leaves behind a daughter who marries in haste when she is still to find out the true meaning of her existence.

From London to Delhi to Goa to the Kumbh, Ghose, a TV person and upon her second novel, weaves a fast-paced tale of rich NRIs, who come here and experiment with the vast wonder that called India. They are often unable to come to terms with the diversity that does not fuse with their conceptions of an enigmatic land and its hetrogenous people and head back to their adopted lands.

The adventure of their coming back to their own country is, however, never a waste, and they return with a vision and a faith that enables them to read their India better and understand that this vast land and its people cannot be straitjacketed into one easily comprehendible chemistry or societal mosaic.

Mia, a TV journalist in London, is fascinated by a speaker with a funny bow and arrow on his back, whom she interviews in Hyde Park, but marries a diabetic tycoon who is never able to come up to her expectations. Her betrayal of the husband and going off to the Kumbh fair with her secret lover on a "mission" is only to be expected, but there is a twist in the tale.

The action explodes on to the beaches of Goa, where a mother finally learns that her affair with another man can cost her kin dearly. The clash of the "need for self" and oneís duties towards others is vivid and consistent in the plot. Ghose says that it may be possible to get whatever one wants, but often, there is a terrible price to be paid for persistence and heavy headedness.

There is a journey to an ashram in the vicinity of Delhi where purification of the mind is the mantra (a technique many Indians writing in English often employ in their work), a few coincidences that somewhat nudge one unpleasantly after a while, and a greed of a kind to pack too many events and voices in the text. Still, her understanding of the travails of an Indian Diaspora that still has to discover its twin mooring, and her innocent yet effective prose, all make for an enjoyable read. Consciously or subconsciously, most of her male characters pale into insignificance as compared to the female achievers, but then there are many male novelists who produce just the opposite effect.

In Blind Faith, Ghose is unpretentious, direct and real in what she believes and in what she writes. Here is a description of a Goa landscape: "In the evenings, music from the church choir accompanied the fishermen to the tavern. Family homes with pillared patios, red tiled roofs and icons on their walls came alive with lights and buntings. Bougainvillaea, jackfruit trees and abolim flowers grew in the back gardens of the houses that lined the zigzag." Simple and honest writing often leads to a wider readership.