When I am entralled by a book, I always find a way to finish reading it, like in one or two days or in a few sittings. The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi took me a 3 day sitting to finish it.
And like all Indian authors, this author just had to bitch about India in all possible ways, from its poorness to its richness, from its slums to its mansions, its railways and its sorrounding towns
The story starts off with Babo, the eldest son of a upper-middle-class family Prem Kumar and Trishala. He was given an oppurtunity to further his studies in London and work part time as well, with his father's business supplier's offices. This was in the 60s, when most communication was done via mails and telegrams. While spending his time in UK, he manage to lose weight, forget his Jainism practices and pick up alcohol, meat, women, sex and ciggarates along the way. Then he fell madly in love with a Welsh girl-Sian, an auburn haired beauty working at his place which his nosy relatives promptly reported to his parents in India when they bumped into him in a cinema
Meanwhile, his parents back in India faked Trishala's health which summoned his son back home. When Babo found out that it was a ploy to get him to leave his white girl-friend he was furious and went on a personal strike. He refused to talk to his parents, they refused to talk to him and eventually retreated to his wise grandmother's house in Ganga Bazaar-a faraway town from Madras. He wrote long and fiercely romantic letters to his girlfriend back in London and refused to shave his beard until his wish to marry her was fulfilled. Finally his parents gave in, to a condition if Babo still pined for her after 6 months he will get to marry her and only if she agreed to stay in India for the next 2 years. After much letters back and forth she finally made her decision to her family and friends behind to start afresh in India.
Throughout the story, Ganga Bazaar and Ba had played a significantly important roles in all the characters' lives. Babo and Sian eventually moved out to a place of their own, a place with the orange and black gate with their own car, the Flying Fiat. While Babo was occupied with his father's business his brother Chotu was wasting his life. The last and the youngest in his family he was often ignored by his parents and his inability to decide what he wanted to do with his life pretty much ruined him. He sadly died of lung cancer and caused much grief to Babo. Then there's Dolly whom refused to marry but finally agreed to at the very ripe age of 30. Conceiving all four was no easy task. Trishala was cursed with infertility (or I think the husband had some fertility issues) Ba often used to tell her to carry vegetables on her lap to induce fertility. After years of doing that, she finally gave up and did this naked dance (instructed by Ba of course) and in a spur of the moment jumped to bed and rode her shocked husband. This single sexual act "fertilised" her enough to produce four children:
Now, Trishala was another issue. As the story progressed she developed breast cancer and eventually succumbed to her cancer. Sian on the other hand had adjusted very well in ther 2 year time period. She decided she wanted to spend the rest of her life in India, much to Babo's surprise. They had two daughthers; Mayuri and Beena (Bean) each born a year apart. Babo and Sian's life pretty much fell to a routine life, she was absorbed in her charity work, long walks in the Garden of Redemption and regular visits to Ms Douglas' (although she was slowly losing her mind n forgetting Sian all the time) Both parents and daugthers occupied their weekends with visit to the Madras Club where they mix and mingle with the other "hybrids" parents and children of mixed marriages and races
Then came the deaths. The first to die was Sian's father Bryn, which deeply affected her. Then it was Trishala's turn, and after that was Sian's mother Nerys
The book also goes on to talk about the sibling rivalry and relationship between Mayuri and Bean. Mayuri was every bit boring and predictable but Bean on the other hand was a different league altogether. At the age of 16, she had an abortion accompanied by her bestie Megnaz. After completing her degree in English lit, she decided she wanted to go London to search for love. There she let a father of three Spanish guy, had a steamy affair with him, fell madly in love with him and found herself pregnant with his child. She was called back to India (irony to how his father was called back to India) but this time it was her uncle Chotu whom had lung cancer, at last stage and wasn't taking too kindly to medication. Bean and Chotu had a special relationship which she cherished. As a child she used to wet her bed and swimming lessons with her uncle Chotu helped her build her confidence and stop her from bed wetting. Bean used to have nightmares as a child, and thought she could see ghosts (I think all she saw was a feet-deformed woman) and had a love-hate relationship with Mayuri.
As they grew up, their relationships improved to the point that they were both exhanging long letters back and forth from London and Mayuri's rented house by the beach. She has gotten married to her extremely rich childhood friend from Madras, Cyrus Mazda (the son of estranged parents who lived in US)
When Bean did come back to India, she was 2 months pregnant and spent her pregnancy in Ganga Bazaar with Ba. Her parents were not informed of her out-of-wedlock-pregnancy but Mayuri, after many miscarriages decided to tell her parents of Bean's situation. Babo and Sian decides to surprise her in Ganga Bazaar but the earthquake on the 26th January 2001 cut their visit short. Meanwhile, Bean and Ba's trusted half-man half-woman confidante had gone to see the ob-gyn out of town and on their way there were stuck by the earthquake. They story ends with her returning to Ba's safe and sound and her parents running towards her to embrace her
Doshi is an excellent story-teller, he spins the yarn to make the book enjoyable although some of his facts were wrong. Like how a Patel family can be devout Jain followers beats me