Undeserved End Bracket

OUTLOOK July 22, 2013

The Hope Factory’s opening line sets the story within a picture frame. There are two windows and the story, essentially character-driven, alternates between visually crafted scenes. One window gives the reader a scan of Anand’s life­—a businessman whose aspirations regarding getting an international order make him search for land in Bangalore. Anand is married to Vidya, who is a typical Indian businessman’s wife. The other window opens up into Kamala’s life. Kamala is a domestic wor­ker who has struggled to raise her son as a single mother.


Two parallel worlds exist–Anand’s and Kamala’s. In Anand’s case, a political mess while acquiring land threatens to subsume his life, endangering his marriage to Vidya. For Kamala, it’s her dream to see her son educated and do well in life. The author is painstaking in her observations, minutiae and detail that enlivens the background are acutely observed, and the precise prose, stripping the narrative of all excess, gives the feeling that Sankaran is wielding a surgical scalpel rather than a pen. The absence of histrionics, even while dealing with raging conflicts like the way Anand deals with his interfering father-in-law or Kamala’s mustering all her pride and dignity as she screams down accusations of theft by her mistress, is refreshing.


Anand is an example of a hardworking, simple businessman, is liked by his friends and has no extraordinary feelings as such. The slight attraction to Kavika, Vidya’s friend, which is skilfully hinted at by the author, is left hanging, since he will not cross the line. Deliberately understated as a character, Anand rises to the occasion when he astutely handles Vijayan, the politician, and gets his land issues sorted out. On the other hand, Kamala is dogged and devoted. The psychology of the underdog is played out realistically. Thangam and Shanta, her fellow workers, add significantly to Kamala’s world, as does her landlady.


The book ends on closures at many levels. The land deal which will enable Anand to fulfil the Japanese order by constructing a bigger factory is concluded successfully. Kamala finds herself another job and her son, Narayan, continues his education sponsored by Anand. But it all ties up too pat, the end not being open-ended is disappointing, for doesn’t urban existence have that element of uncertainty in which people forever seek continuity?

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