THE GOLDEN SON – Shilpi Somaya Gowda

 

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I’m a fan of Indian novels, and this one did not disappoint.
It’s the story of Anil, born into a family of landowners and farmers. His father’s dearest wish is that Anil study medicine, and go to America to practice as a doctor. Which Anil does, but at considerable cost to family relationships, and his own love life. We’re witness to the ongoing, often heartbreaking conflict between Western career and lifestyle, and Eastern family ties and preferred lifestyle. It’s a constant tussle, and there are no easy choices.
The book has a sub-plot which involves the abuse and exploitation of Anil’s friend, Leena, when she marries into a thoroughly bad family. Previously I’ve read about the horrific crimes committed against new brides, and Leena’s story is no exception. I’ll leave it at that, so as not to write a spoiler.
An interesting feature of the book was the description of the ancient panchayat system, which I knew nothing about. In short, community disputes (often involving land or water rights and usage ) are solved within the community by a local open court , presided over by the leading family in the district. In this case, Anil’s family and on the death of his father, Anil finds himself unwillingly acting as referee to weekly panchayat telephone conferences between Texas and India! That’s what I enjoy about Indian novels: the juxtaposition of ancient and modern lives.
Altogether a rich, satisfying read.

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