Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Have you fallen into an insular rut?

Serving Crazy with Curry, by Amulya Malladi

Although the main character in this novel is Devi, a young American woman who is having troubles both in her family and at her high tech firm in California, it’s her mother, Saroj who I was most concerned about in this story.  Devi tries to kill herself, refuses to speak, and then charges into her ma’s kitchen and starts whumping up a storm.  Although Saroj isn’t presented in the best light, often described as going into melodrama and hystrionics at the drop of a hat, I liked her the most.  Not that I didn’t like Devi, but despite her actions, I felt she’d come out just fine.  The mom, not so.
While Devi creates one bizarre recipe after another, her concerned family surrounds her, eating the crazy concoctions and complimenting them non stop.  Honestly, raisins in a laddoo?  It makes my teeth itch thinking about it.  A laddoo is already so sweet, although I liked the addition of hazelnuts.  Anyway, I seem to be getting off track.  You won’t be reading this book for the recipes.  Although they all have a fright factor, they don’t necessarily live up to their titles, thank the Lord.

Meanwhile, Saroj who flutters helplessly about Devi, (what mother wouldn’t feel helpless when her daughter tries to kill herself?)poor Saroj, she gets no support from anyone, what so ever.  Her daughters get angry when her tears fall, and how couldn’t those tears fall?  Her husband is cold and has shut her out years earlier, justifying his behavior because she has always wanted to return to India.  Saroj’s main problem isn’t her family though.  Nor is it the fact that she’s never worked outside her home, although her family looks down on her for this traditional behavior.  (Even Saroj’s mother is contemptuous of her, for not having entered the great world out there).  Saroj’s real problem may be her insularity.  On the one hand I identified with her irritated reaction to her family’s preferring American percolator coffee over her carefully made South Indian coffee, which, trust me, is infinitely better.  But on the other, I was alarmed at the degree to which she never ventures outside of her American Indian community.  Her eldest daughter had had only two friends while growing up.  Saroj never so much as learned the names of them both, as one of them was Chinese.  Her thinking is that it’s unecessary to involve herself in a ‘foreign girl’, despite the fact this is her daughter’s best friend from elementary to college.  I think of the joy that Saroj has missed out on, never taking any interest or part in her daughters' friendships.  Much later, when this daughter is dating, Saroj complains that the boy (man actually) is either Scottish or Irish, and therefor unmemorable and to be dismissed.  In fact he’s Italian, which reinforces just how insular Saroj has allowed herself to become.
I can see that if an immigrant isn’t approached or invited in by others outside of her community, she could just go the safest route and stay with ‘her own kind’, but it couldn’t help her to live fully.  If I could jump into this novel, and enroll her in neighborhood activities where she’d be mixing with other cultures, I certainly would.  If you too have fallen into a rut like this, or you know someone who has, get this title at once.  In many ways it’s like having some cold water splashed into your face, but in the long run, I think it's an awakening experience.


  1. I think most of us are guilty, to some degree, of the insular rut. By nature, we humans surround ourselves with the familiar. Your post is a good reminder to us all, that we need to venture beyond our comfort zones now and then.

  2. Hi Darcia,

    Well said. It's not just some people who need to venture out. To be free, we all need to occasionally leave that comfort zone. Thanks for visiting the blog, and for your insightful comment.

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