Reviewer Hamdhoon Rashad: Hamdhoon is a
freelance writer currently pursuing his journalism degree in Malaysia.
Apart from reviewing books and movies, his major writing interests
include pop culture, environment and contemporary lifestyle.
Author: Chitra Kallay
Chitra Kallay definitely has a way with words. More than that, actually. She has expertly painted a magnificent picture with words. Her astoundingly original debut novel The Flat on Malabar Hill speaks volumes to that effect. From the very first page, I was already deeply engrossed in Kallay’s fantastic narrative.
Spanning across three decades, three generations, and two continents, The Flat on Malabar Hill beautifully weaves the heart-wrenching story of a close-knit Indian family that belongs in the upper echelons of Mumbai’s high society. Told through different perspectives - or rather - through the eyes of different cast members who make up the structure of the family, ‘The Flat on Malabar Hill’ chronicles the fragile relationships between the members of the family against a backdrop of modern lifestyles clashing with age-old traditions.
Vinod and Shanti are the driving forces of the family; the glue that keeps the family whole. Their two sons – Kishore and Dev – are as different as chalk and cheese. Kishore is the son every parent wishes they could have. An MIT graduate and successful businessman, Kishore has always lived by the rule. Vinod and Shanti couldn’t be more proud of their eldest son. While in the States, Kishore meets Anjali, who was reared abroad and loves to lead the modern Westernized life blissfully ignorant of Indian traditions. With Vinod and Shanti’s blessing, Kishore marries Anjali and lives a happy life. They had a son Kisan and after he was born, they move to India and struggle to adjust to life in Mumbai.
Dev has no interest in following the footstep of his brother Kishore. Instead, he chooses to experiment with drugs and alcohol with his idle rich friends. Vinod completely disapproves Dev’s way of living. Shanti stands by her husband although she has always had a soft spot for his younger beta. All Shanti wants is to Dev to settle down with a nice Indian girl and quits what he calls a job as a drummer at nightclubs. Things become unpleasant for the entire family when Dev brings an Anglo-Indian girl to introduce to his parents as his girlfriend. But when no one approve of Anita due to her caste, Dev distances himself from the family.
Years later, Kishore is living in Seattle with his family working for Microsoft. Quite suddenly, he has to uproot his family to the flat on Malabar Hill as family responsibility and tradition calls. Vinod and Shanti want to bequeath the flat to Kishore, and Anjali is excited to re-decorate the place to her liking. After all, it is their place now.
As years pass on, Shanti’s memory gradually fades with Alzheimer’s and each change Anjali brings about to the flat on Malabar Hill further erases the memories Shanti and Vinod had created over the years. Then, Vinod takes an earth-shattering decision that leaves an aching legacy behind that will haunt his family for years to come.
While the top-notch writing and the elegant prose take away credit for what makes this a spectacular novel, Kallay’s luminous portrayal of each character is first-rate. As you turn the pages of this book, you will get to know each of them so well that you will come to feel that you share a special bond with each of family members that you can’t quite describe.
The best part of the book has to be its devastating finale that will leave you stunned. I do crave for a book with a stunning ending and The Flat on Malabar Hill had delivered the desired effect on me.
All in all, The Flat on
Malabar Hill is a marvelous book that could only be hailed as a
gem in the literary world. Hats off to Chitra Kallay! With her
amazing debut, Kallay has proved what a brilliant writer she is. I
simply can’t wait for her next.
Click here To Purchase The Flat on Malabar Hill