Aftertaste by Namita Devidayal – Book Review
A Bania Marwari family in the business district of Mumbai in the mid-1980s and the family saga that tells you the dynamics of the family centered around the cornerstone of the community – money or wealth. Being from the community, I could relate to almost everything in the story. And the credit goes to the author for creating that atmosphere so well. Especially the hold on money, the quick mental business calculations before any decisions. While most family stories are woven around relationships and the occupations remain at bay. But in this story Aftertaste, the business and the family are intertwined.
It gives you a nice glimpse of the way a Bania thinks in business. How he builds long-term relationships, how he tries to give something new to the customer all the time. And how it all comes absolutely naturally to him. At times it got a little clinical but overall you can definitely let go of that.
A matriarch who strongly holds her family through invisible but tightly held strings in her hands. She is the brain behind the business. And her business acumen is something that family depends upon and looks up to. Every now and then she comes up with ideas to give a push to the business and more often than not the ideas work. No, she is not a business woman. She is a housewife who makes sure the kitchen in the house is being run properly. Every festival is celebrated the way it should be, oversees the happenings in the lives of her children. Gets all of them married and then interferes as and when needed. She knows she must hold keys to all the wealth in her hands for the hierarchy to remain that way.
Her children go through their own introspection when they realize she is about to go. And there is a lot that they do not know including the things they know. Her relationship with her servant couple is exactly how I have seen in many homes. They are an integral part of the family and get their share of the wealth – may be a miniscule one on every occasion and every time wealth changes hands from one generation to another.
Through each of the children, the author takes the reader through the marriages and relationships as they exist in business families. Where alliances are sometimes a part of the business deal. Sometimes a part of ego trip. And even when it’s so called ‘love marriage’ the relationship may not be in a very different direction. Each marriage is different but has similar undertones. Every child has this dependence on the mother in his or her unique but not so uncommon way. The way they address each other as Mummyji, Behenji and Papaji is something that you would hear commonly in these families.
Set around Diwali of 1984, the time is reminded through the events like tension in Punjab and ultimately the killing of Indira Gandhi. There was one big error that I spotted – Kumbh Mela in Allahabad does not happen at the time of Diwali – it happens in January, as used in a scene with TV news talking about the Mela. Language is simple yet lucid. And conveys the inner selves as well as it tells the matter of fact scene at hand. The author brings music into the story couple of times. It reminded me of her earlier book The Music Room that I had loved reading.
Read Aftertaste, if the review makes you curious about the story.