Undertow by Jahnavi Barua

Loved everything about the book except the ending. The story was flowing well until the second last chapter which was just abrupt. But again, even in real life things happen, sudden and abrupt.

I admire the strong-headed attitude of Rukmini but her calmness at the end killed me. I wished she would cry, scream, talk it out but she keeps cool consoling her father. There are broken families and disrupted relationships but putting them in words on paper is not easy. Jahnavi has done a wonderful job in weaving those emotions. While reading the book, at places I lumped in my throat and this rarely happens to me.

This book also reminded me of two of my favourite authors Jhumpa Lahiri for the way Assam was described and Ruskin Bond for nature. Overall a good read, if you have the appetite to accept what happens in the end.

Some of my favourite lines from the book.

  • Morning broke, but it was a stale one, worn out by the troubles of the night.
  • The river had been her friend. It had always extended to her a sense of purpose, its constant motion—albeit a lazy, languorous one—had encouraged her to keep moving, to forge ahead from one place in time to another. Rukmini was grateful for that, for she knew she could only too easily sink into a despairing absence of movement.
  • Sister, brother, father, mother. Kinship ties were never felt more keenly than on days they were loosened or severed: at weddings when girls left to join another family, on graduation when children left home to study and, most of all, at deaths, when a bond snapped never to be replaced again.
  • Usha submitted to no such mellowing, though. In her eyes, Rukmini remained a traitor, who had betrayed state and race and family.
  • ‘Love means many things, but what it really means is doing one’s best for one’s loved ones.’
  • The light was more yellow than in Bangalore; it was warmer and it fell on one’s skin with a familiarity that was, at once, insouciant and endearing, as if it belonged there. Its touch was faintly moist, unlike the dry, polite sunlight of Bangalore. With the wind came other things: whiffs of mustard oil and a dense smell of green matter.
  • But like many whom fortune favoured, they were reckless with the feelings of others.
  • Only when the prison gates open and the prisoner stands in sunlight, in front of the endless horizon, does she realize the full measure of her captivity.
    The river looked sleepy in the afternoon sun. Its waters, so much in a hurry, were quiet; they heaved slightly now and then, as if sighing and shifting in sleep, and the few boats that passed by moved slowly as if in deference to the resting water.
  • In a forest, nothing meant more than it should: a birth, a death, all were accepted with equanimity as if there was something larger out there, something more important than the individual.

Available on Amazon Kindle Edition and Hardcover.


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