My book discussion in Knoxville, Tennessee
The evening began with a delicious dinner cooked by Nina Martyris, with cauliflower pakoras, fresh out of the pan. Just the flowerets dipped in a batter made of chickpea flour, chilli powder, ground ginger and salt.
Then we all sat down to dinner consisting of mutter paneer, a rocket salad with goat cheese, slivers of almonds and raisins and a vinaigrette dressing, and delicious tiny quiche's from COSTCO, which I added to the table. It was a sit down dinner which was nice and intimate. The Mango souffle after dinner was enjoyed by all and Nina gave me only a sliver to taste as I am diabetic -- no wonder she has been making it for the book discussions for 10 years, its fabulous!
Because we were a small group the discussion was extremely lively and interesting. Carol the lady to Nina’s right asked for a map of India and wanted me to point out all the places which I had written about in the book including where Nina came from ( Mumbai) and I did ( Bangalore) That was a fun way to start and show them that we both came from Goa which was to their great shock liberated only in 1961 from the Portuguese! Ofcourse sadly we both don’t speak Portuguese.
Marcia wanted to know what a chickoo was and I was sad I had no chickoos to give them to taste. I had brought a box full for Andrew from Hoskote which were long gone. They wanted to know what the flesh was like and what they tasted like. What was the colour of the fruit, and what was the colour of the flesh? What was meant by 'dik' and Nina explained that it was like when she harvested their figs the sap that oozed out from the stem. I took the chance to ask them how to save Andy's peaches from the birds and they talked about netting the tree, which we will do once they get bigger.
The discussion went on about Parkinsons and it's attending difficulties. As they left I told them about how I have made a living will and one told me how her mother has made hers and she went through the details line by line to be sure she understood what she wanted. I told her I just kept pushing Mum and Dad away saying let’s not be morbid and talk about that till it was too late.
Marcia felt I should have had a glossary explaining the Indian words I had in there. Yes I should have, but I never realised I would have an International audience.
They asked about arranged marriages and how it worked for Mum and Dad and how it works in India today.The concept was so foreign for them, but it works till today in many parts of the world besides India, albeit in different ways.
Heart warmingly they all felt the book showed my love and respect for parents who did so much for us. Inspite of it being about a chronic illness, they enjoyed the happy times the girls had spent with them, when they were well. They particularly liked the fact that Mum did her Masters when she was 50. And, they liked my descriptions of how she would dress as an officers wife and our holidays in Baroda.
It was such a warm and intimate evening where each of them shared as well from their own lives and two of them who are Buddhist had been to India, to Bodhgaya and Varanasi.
A review by one of the readers in this discussion--
Thank you so much for sharing your book with us, for answering our questions and talking about everything from chikoos and arranged marriages to the map of India. It was a wonderful, lively discussion. As I said at the table, your love, admiration and respect for your parents shines through every page of the novel. It illuminates the story and reinforces the message of life and hope in the midst of suffering. How perfect for Easter Week.
I also wanted to comment on the interesting structure of the book. The way you take the story forward in each chapter while circling back to Parkinson's and its ravaging effects. It's an ingenious device and serves to anchor the book and keep the focus on the central theme. It also allows the reader to picture your parents both in the best years of their life as well as in their sadder, post-Parkinson's years.
Finally, the title: a gentle title that runs deep. Once one has read the book, the title is infused with bittersweet meaning -- for me, it recalled that passage on how your Dad, an air-force officer, ramrod straight all his life -- in posture and principle -- found himself suddenly stooping forward at the onset of this cruel disease. It was a bewildering bend in the river of his life that no one could have anticipated or planned for. How wonderful, though, that he he had daughters like Sabrina and Samara at his side to care for him when he needed it most.
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