A debut novel by Avni Doshi ‘Burnt Sugar” made to the nominations of the booker prize, this year, however this book was published as “A girl in white cotton’’ in India last year. This book is set around an idea of motherhood which will irritate an average Indian mother. The book evolves with the present finding its resonance with the remnants of the past. How impulsive decisions one makes over the conventional wisdom leaves her and those connected to her in a constant misery and predicament. This is an awakening saga of a troubled mother daughter relationship. A relationship which stays through many storms, embedded in a state of isolation which is common in both the mother and daughter. This isn’t a happy tale like many we perceive as the idea of motherhood from, it’s distressing sometimes. Sometimes it compels you to challenge the notions of mothers being protective or settling at the whims and fancies of the child, neither is it about a mother who forces a way for a daughter. Here the mother doesn’t decide anything for her daughter. Doshi also gives a sense that the mother was so visionless for her daughter, her daughter had to cope with a lot at the same time.
If I were at Antara’s( daughter)place, I would have seen a foggy winter morning, one of the kind where I knew the sun rays will clear it but I wouldn’t be surprised if it came the other day again, I’d know that sun exists but doesn’t make much difference. One of the beautiful things about the book is Doshi doesn’t reveal the character at once by appearance or traits but we find traces of the characters by the choices they make, the way they come to make peace with a chaos which is inevitable to them. If we talk about the writing style, it’s has added a lot more value than just the qualms of philosophical and psychological effort. Writing is so lucid, simple, effective and engaging, in very short sentences the author is able to say something a person full of quandaries inside and yet owning them outside yearns to say.
The book is based on a topic which tries to cross the barricades of liberty and responsibility. Writing about such a complex matter, entwined emotions of anger and pity, problematic women, is often difficult. And many a times in general authors either stretch the thoughts too much to find the suitable depth to justify the layers of the character or risk of being too self-indulgent. This approach is myriad times prone to being parochial or a frivolous rambling. But here some sentences feel like carved from the heart as if it is already flowing deep inside the veins, which is emblematic of the ingenious craft. When we talk about fiction we tend to read something which moves us so we continue to hinge upon till the last ambiguous line, which answers the questions least concerned and in turn leaves many unanswered.
This book does well on this front too. We humans have a peculiar craving that we become so smitten with something which happens to us repeatedly, whether our materialistic attachments or the connections we make with people or animals yet we keep looking for something new, something sudden, something unexpected, sometimes serendipities and sometimes a simple zing. We get bored yet we become habitual and we keep on dragging. Intentionally good books seek to balance this dual nature of ours, it doesn’t need to be thrillers only, and twists are a way of life. To juggle with these twists and maneuvers the author creates a spectrum of emotions from the vivid and engrossing scenes of the aashram to the churning of hope when Antara goes through postpartum depression , it appears as of a kaleidoscope where no light can enter albeit something hard to comprehend gets reflected over and again. Every time one expects of hope for and from the characters they come out as making things worse for them. One gets a feeling that the fact that they share a relationship with each other is conspiring against them.
The book doesn’t intend to inspire you with romanticisation of trauma but it legitimizes the fissures our vulnerabilities give, they take long to heal but a little air and it comes haunting back in flashes in moments least expected. This book is an interesting light but extremely dark read without even realizing it. And it ends on a slighter note of dejection in a way that just because you get to live the same life which you were deprived of again but in a way that an inseparable part of you gets to live your part not you (a reversal of roles with someone nascent), not much is likely to change. It is a cantankerousness that is enthralling and dismaying. The candor with which the mother and daughter act is no less than unscrupulous but with the course of time, your sympathy varies from one to other but in the end no explanations, no reasons suffice. So without revealing the plot or the big secrets I have made my sense of it. I will recommend it to even those who aren’t much into reading because the clarity of the text stays with you so does the agony.