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The Age of Shiva, Manil Suri

2 Ratings: 3.0
fiction, Indian independence

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Tags: Books, Fiction, Family Relationships, India, Manil Suri
Author: Manil Suri
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.
Date Published: January 12, 2009
1 review about The Age of Shiva, Manil Suri

"To be a parent is to be guilty."

  • Jan 10, 2009
  • by
The Partition, Indian Independence and war with Pakistan serve as a dramatic background for this tale of happily-ever-after turned bitter disappointment as Meera finds herself wed to Dev, a young man infatuated with her older sister, Roopa. Thanks to her naive miscalculations, the new bride leaves a comfortable home with a domineering father and religiously devout mother for the humble quarters of her in-laws. Not only is Dev as immature as he is handsome, but his older married brother casts covetous eyes on the newest member of the household. Raised in a male-dominated society, an unfair tug-of-war between a conditionally generous father and young husband who desires a singing career, Meera succumbs to pressure, making a fateful decision that alters her life and poisons her marriage, deeply unhappy until the birth of her son, Ashvin.

In a society with clearly proscribed roles, Meera is torn between the secular demands of a domineering father and religiously rigid in-laws, her husband clinging to a past that fails to translate into a viable future. But it is the evolving relationship with the innocent child that colors Meera's days, petty jealousies and a yearning for unconditional love long denied, the family's struggle played out in Bombay, isolated in their tiny flat where Dev faces the loss of his dreams and war with Pakistan shatters the city. Yet there is more destruction inside the home than in a country writhing in revolution, from Nehru to Indira Ghandi; Meera's painful tread along the edge of motherhood leads to a nearly tragic denouement: "For once I would matter most in someone's life".

While the political landscape of India is changing, Meera undergoes her own revolution, thanks to the birth of her son. Mirroring her country's, it is this private journey that Suri so beautifully captures. Not content with the ready complications of married life, the author takes Meera's plight one step further, unhappy days with Dev in Bombay and a sacrifice that returns to haunt the marriage relieved only by the joyful child that stands between his beleaguered parents. Through domestic disharmony and war, Meera charts a difficult path through motherhood, seeking a balance that eludes her. The son who saves Meera from despair offers her the most difficult challenges: Meera's dearth of affection from elsewhere presents unique problems that loom larger as the boy grows from childhood to adolescence. That her desperation leads this mother to shameful manipulation is the sad result of an unfulfilling marriage, natural affection twisted by crippling fear.

Rather than be constricted by the predictable struggles of his female protagonist in a repressive society, Suri takes Meera to darker places, her emotional maturity crippled by a cruelly controlling father and a weak husband, Ashvin the repository of her dreams. Meera tormented by conflicting desires, Ashvin becomes the object, the measure of her worth, a disturbing element that adds another layer to the brilliant depiction of a woman trapped between her need for love and the independence of the son who inhabits her every waking moment. This delicate balance tips more than once into dangerous territory, a precipice where Meera hovers, buffeted by warring emotions and a suddenly unbearable future, facing the most pivotal decision of her life. Luan Gaines.
The Age of Shiva

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