& occasionally about other things, too...

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Taste of Water

The Taste of Water by Franky Dias is a novel that combines folklore with a raunchy narrative and a cast of characters that is endearing.

Replete with fables and mythological tales from India, The Taste of Water is a simple story told with panache that has a page-turning quality to it.

It’s a straightforward narrative of a boy – Victor – growing up from childhood, boyhood and youth to manhood in a southern Indian village.

The author deftly recreates the sights, sounds and smells universal to an Indian village and yet distinct to Uppal.

In many ways, the descriptions of the rural life in The Taste of Water remind us of RK Narayan’s classic Malgudi Days.

The characters of this first novel bring the pages alive. They’re chimerical and yet real. You can’t help but fall in love with the utterly guileless Alvares Spinsters and revel in their amorous sins, or quietly admire the diabolically cold-hearted Meena Rai.  

These are characters that stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page of the book, and there are innumerable others who remind you of people you know, have known or would like to know.

Victor’s weaknesses and flaws – his passionate first romance to his subsequent dalliances – are described in a refreshingly non-judgmental manner.

The author doesn't absolve Victor of the moral turpitude and the inevitable denouement, but he doesn't stand on the pulpit and point an accusatory finger.

These all-too-human foibles in Victor are common and the incidents that led to the breakdown of his marriage and ultimately to a personal catharsis lift the novel from commonplace to masterly.

Another remarkable aspect of the novel is the author’s depth of knowledge of the Indian ethos and his utter conviction in liberal values. The book is imbued in both and but never dominate the narrative except in a couple of instances.

A big thank you to my friend Pankaj Mehra, who gifted this book to me. 

More about the book here: The Taste of Water

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