Insight into the psyches of an exotic, very different culture
This is a saga of three generations of Sikhs in Punjab, India, Fiji and California during the occupation of the British from 1910 until they left India. I have read many novels by Caucasians wherein they describe how the subjugated Indians felt under British occupation, but this novel is written by an Indian woman who had the viewpoint of those who suffered. Sikhs were considered the warriors of India with great prowess. The culture, as like many old European cultures, placed the responsibility and decision making in the hands of the patriarch of each family. The women were there to propagate and fulfill all desires of their husbands and the sons in each family strived to keep their father or grandfather, whoever the patriarch might be, happy. This is what this story is about.
Under British rule, they kept taxing the Indians more and more until they could no longer make a living and so would go to a money lender (who was not Indian) to borrow enough to satisfy the British. But the moneylenders were not audited and they added much more interest or did not credit correctly and as a result, foreclosed on the land. This happened to this Toor family. They were forced off of their farm by a moneylender, Mr. Grewal and had to take residence in an old hotel that was filthy and falling apart. Lal Toor was the patriarch of this family and Harpreet was his wife. They had several children, but the one who suffered the most from this change was the oldest son, Baba Singh. and his hate towards Mr.Grewal festered until it exploded. During this time Baba worked very hard for a blacksmith and a physician to help support the family. These two men were most influential in Baba’s development.
Not desiring to spoil the story, each of these many family characters are fully developed and their emotions, actions and reactions, together with their offspring’s struggle to understand and abide by these cultural rules are the basis for the story. Darshan is one of the last of the Toors, ends up in California to go to university there, works very hard for a pathologist and a doctor to support himself when his father, who has rheumatoid arthritis moves his grown family from India to California, which totally overwhelms Darshan. Darshan adapts to the American culture more than any of the others. It is during this last part of the story that the reader can truly see into the psyches of all of these characters. The entire story is dramatic, emotional, informative and educational for Westerners. I think it is on a par with “Gone With the Wind” and if I could give it more than five stars, I would do so.