Fugitive Histories by Githa Hariharan
Fugitive Histories is the first book by Githa Hariharan that I read. After reading the book the first thing that strikes is the author’s excellent narration of the thoughts of the characters. She captures them as they happen in real life to thoughts. As they waver from topic to topic, from people to people and from places to places. Triggered anytime by some thought, some visual, a simple word, a familiar situation or just a smell. She is convincingly able to put the character in a time and space. And then let their thoughts flow back and forth, high and low, across boundaries. In reality, and in imagination.
Having said that the book Fugitive Histories is nothing but the thoughts of three main protagonists. Two of which come from the same family and are mother and daughter. And the third one is someone the daughter comes across while trying to find her niche professionally. Mala is the mother, who comes from a south Indian Brahmin family, marries a Muslim from Mumbai who is an artist. And refuses to have any religious identity and craves for true freedom throughout his life. Sara their daughter obviously has many identities to choose from. And hence is confused as she is trying to settle with one identity like her brother.
Though the author has expressed it in the narrow canvas of Hindu Muslim dilemma coming from mixed parentage. But this is a dilemma that all the growing up people face, who have multiple identities, most commonly faced by children of immigrants. Then there is Yasmeen, a Muslim girl who survived riots but lost her brother. And had to vacate the family home after riots. Her thoughts and memories have been captured well by the author, in the not so negative way, where she is studying and her mother is determined to make her study. She comes across as someone who has gone through pain but still has chosen to make her the dreams come alive instead of brooding over the past.
Author has used the sketches made by the late husband of Mala to take you inside her heart and soul. And show you glimpses of her life which you can stitch together using your own imagination. She used the similar but not so strong metaphors for other two protagonists as well. There is no story per se, but the thoughts, fantasies, and memories of three women woven nicely. The expression is good, the flow is nice, the narration is engaging. But at the end of it, you really do not know what the author wanted to say. It is like a biography of a family through the thoughts of two women and the third one inserted from a current scenario or from a scenario that took place in the lifetime of the family.
A light and at times thought-provoking read… I am not sure if I have any recommendation this time.