Publisher: Harper Collins (Harper)
Pub date: 3 Jan 2012
Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable in their university days in Bombay in the 1970s. Spirited and unconventional, these women protested and fought for their political and social ideals. But 30 years later, a lot has changed and not all of them are even in touch any more. When Armaiti calls and tells them that she is dying and wants to see her friends one last time, their world becomes shaky. Memories of the past come flooding back – and all of them have to face some truths that they’ve brushed under the carpet for many years.
I’ve been hearing about Thrity Umrigar’s books for a while now, so when I got a chance to read a review copy of her latest (Thank you, Harper) I jumped at the chance. I’m so glad that I did and I will definitely be tracking down Umrigar’s backlist.
The World We Found is the story of enduring friendships, and a subtle portrait of modern India. Friendships that are forged in school and university are strong and from what I’ve seen, are the ones that stay with you. These are the people who really know you and have seen you grow and change from an idealistic awkward young woman (with terrible dress sense) to who you are now (with maybe not much better dress sense).
Armaiti married an American and moves to the US many years ago. She is now divorced and dealing with a debilitating disease. Laleh is married to her college sweetheart Adish, and enjoys a fulfilled life with him. Kavita is single, taking care of her mother and has secrets that she has been scared to share with her friends for many years. But Nishta has disappeared from their lives completely. When Kavita and Laleh finally track her down, they realise that Nishta’s life has moved so far away from theirs that they are stunned and outraged. Nishta married her college sweetheart Iqbal, who is no longer the liberal socialist he once was. He has changed beyond recognition and Nishta is a prisoner in her home. The friends have to find a way to convince Nishta to remember who she really is and break free.
There is quite a lot of drama and thrill in this story, but really it’s more about friendships – the bond between the four women, the larger group that also includes Adish and Iqbal, Laleh’s relationship with her husband (who is such a good friend to her) and how time has shifted the balance in all these relationships.
Umrigar’s writing is subtle and gentle and deals with the divides in India – the conventional and the progressive, the fundamentals and the liberals, the class divides, the rich and poor and the resentment that builds up from these differences. Each of the characters is finely developed and we understand (even if don’t agree with) the choices that they make.
Highly recommended. Fans of literary fiction, Indian fiction, stories about enduring friendship, women’s fiction will all love this delicately told tale.
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