Sreevatsa Kota's Reviews > The Inheritance of Loss
The Inheritance of Loss
by Kiran Desai
by Kiran Desai
Sreevatsa Kota's review
May 02, 07
Have you ever lived a dream outside a slumber during your waking hours? This book makes it possible.I have come to realise that every Booker-winning novel follows a distinctive pattern of sorts that reveals all the instantly recognisable Booker leitmotifs that are vital to the plot: A range of emotions that both flavour and colour it. Thus, crude hilarity, raw sex, untold pain and interminable suffering,not to mention loads of scatology,form the mainstay of a typical Booker story. And the primary aim and challenge of a Booker author is to magically splice all these disparate strands of the narrative together at the end that culminates in a climactic explosion and implosion of feelings of the reader.'This' is what I call the 'Booker watermark'. And 'The Inheritance of Loss' satisfies such criteria but it ought to have been more seemly titled 'The Inheritance of Hopelessness'.The dearth of hope, which, arguably, is the function of loss becomes palpable.The perpetual despair of the characters, the reader being nearly one of them, is a common thread that runs throughout the length of the plot holding them together like a many-beaded necklace and is also masked with screamingly funny humour- the character sketch of the batty old Bengali teacher-sisters for example, or their rival neighbour,Mrs Sen or even Biju’s zany sidekick, Saeed Saeed in the US and, the author’s descriptions of Mutt, the pet bitch,and her adorable canine antics,just to name a few.Such insertions offer a few welcome rays of soft light of cheer in an otherwise looming dark ‘hopeless’ plot.The storyline spans from the deceptively tranquil remote east to the seemingly loud and happening west.Biju, one of the chief characters, fights tooth and nail to get a visa for the US of A and finally succeeds in setting his foot in the 'Land of Dreams'but eventually takes off his rose-tinted spectacles and does some extensive soul-searching which ultimately throws up a volley of difficult questions in his face so that he is reduced to reconsider his vocation.Soon he sees the whole world around him crashing down and converging into one composite being- his father who has been slaving his miserable life away in servitude, thousands of miles away, to a bloodless retired Uncle Scrooge-like civil servant who cares for nothing else in the entire world but Mutt, his pet bitch: He loses the soundness of his mind when she goes missing.So, will Biju see his father ever again or remain ensnared in America for keeps? Will his father see his son, Biju, before he dies serving that monster of a master?Will the civil servant (the master) stand a chance to find his lost pet?- all this in an already irrevocably strife-torn Kalimpong where live the master, his cook-cum-servant and 'a breath of fresh air', the heroin, Sai- the civil servant's orphaned maternal granddaughter who is head-over-heels with her youngish tutor,Gyan,who constantly blows hot and cold on her much to her righteous indignation.Yet she cannot take her mind off him.So she braves the elements and communal riots on a rain-drenched afternoon to seek him out only to get a raw deal in return. She goes back home mortified.Will Gyan come back to her and requite her love?The haunting hopelessness and individual disavowal mark the theme at every step and Kiran Desai has done a fine job in spotlighting this stark feature which shines through, so to speak, the entire stretch of the narrative. She also substantiates by way of the atomised depictions of her characters the grim universal fact that some people, no matter what the circumstances, do not change; rather they refuse to change.At the near end,interestingly,the reader's craving for hope becomes insupportable and sure enough hope glimmers from the Himalayan summit; just let the mist float by and you could ‘reach out and pluck it’.There is no denying the fact then that ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ fully qualifies as a true-blue Booker book.
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