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June 20, 2014

Book Review: Family Life

Text by Nittal Chandarana

Of caustic truths and realities, Akhil Sharma pens a poignant account of his life in his autobiographical book

The Read: Family Life
Author: Akhil Sharma
Publisher: Penguin India

Unravelling: Some writing makes you sit back and take a good, hard look at life. You start drawing parallels and the ‘I am not alone in this’ wave of relief sweeps over. Family Life does just that, in an honest and refreshingly candid manner. One is not served a helping of sugar-coated lines. There is pleasure in bitter truths and harsh realities. The author does not portray himself a victim but a hesitant entity sucked into the vacuum of a life he did not choose for himself. He has described post-Partition India, when it was a luxury to migrate to the States. Friends, family and that category of new friends they made due to this move all held them in not-so-quiet reverence. His effortless observation of people and a life in a different land is remarkable. The time the family has to survive after his elder brother’s accident and the way they deal with this tragedy forms the crux of the book.

Maybe more: We loved the bits the author penned down concerning his initiation into writing and the influence Hemingway had on him. We would have liked more such positives.

Caught our eye: There is a host of beautifully poignant lines that caught our eye. Here, Sharma writes about one of the simple changes that seemed to have humongous connotations: “I had never seen hot water coming from a tap before. In India, during winter, my mother used to get up early to heat pots of water on the stove so we could bathe. Watching the hot water spill as if water being hot meant nothing, as if there was an endless supply, I had the sense of being in a fairy tale, one of those stories with a jug that is always full of milk or a bag that never empties of food.”

Finally: Harsh, ugly and vindictive, this book made us experience a volley of emotions through the course of the narrative. It will not be anything close to pleasant, but do read; even if it be for the emotional jolts.

 

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