IAS officer Shubha Sarma looks at the great Indian joint family in her new novel The Awasthis of Aamnagri which is full of eccentric characters and loaded with drama and ample doses of humour.
It is set in the city of Aamnagri, known for its luscious mangoes and where the “unsullied waters of the Ganga and Yamuna mingle”.
The story revolves around the residents of ‘Paradise’, also known as Pandit ji’s Haveli. Pandit Dinanath Awasthi is a prominent lawyer of Aamnagri. He lives with his wife, known as Mata ji, and their four sons, four daughters-in-law, and six grandchildren. Their daughters are married.
The outer world of courtroom battles (for the Awasthis are a family of lawyers) is reflected in their daily lives. Courtroom scenes unfold in the book inside the haveli over missing pieces of buttered toasts.
It is, however, not a fun ride all the way through. As the decades pass, the sons move out of the ancestral home with their families to find freedom and identity. Mata ji finds the nest empty and hollow. Desperately lonely, she makes one last ditch attempt to bring the family together.
There are laugh-out-loud moments as well as intriguing, suspenseful ones. The author weaves lessons into the narrative about kindness, fairness, family values, and the importance of sticking together through thick and thin, albeit through humorous incidents and over games of bridge.
The picture that emerges from the colourful, messy scenes is one filled with desi flavour, just like the sweet mangoes of Aamnagri.
The novel, published by Niyogi Books, reminds one of the good old days when summer vacations were spent at grandparents’ houses, and when families lived under one roof “fighting, bickering and in the process, rediscovering their affection for each other”.
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