Saraswati Park is about a middle class family in Bombay. Husband Mohan is a professional letter writer. This is not a growth field. He gets some work putting pen to paper for divided lovers and families and the occasional check but he spends more and more of his time pursuing his real passion. He buy old novels from the secondhand stalls and scrawls away in the margins. His dream is step out of the margins and be a novelist. Mohan’s wife, Lakshmi, is in crisis. She is in mourning for the death of her only brother and maybe for her marriage as well. The couple takes in their nephew Ashish. Ashish is troubled by his sexuality, unhappy romances and having to repeat his final year of college.
It’s just a lovely book full of the minor domestic dramas that we all live through, and an all too rare instance of a well-written book that suggests family life isn’t there just so the young have something from which to escape. There are very, very few false steps in the prose and that credit goes purely to the writer and for conjuring up this world.
This is a kitchen sink kind of novel. The dramas and the humorous moments are small, intimate and happening to ordinary people. Most of the Indian novels I have read have been big multi-generational affairs with a cast of thousands ranging all over our history. What a welcome change Saraswati Park is to my usual Indian writers’ diet.
Joseph carefully introduces us to everyday quiet. The lives she examines are not eccentric, not flashy, not starting a dynasty or representing the history or future of a nation. These people are trying to find their way and with Anjali Jospeh’s skills their journey is an exulting experience that must be cherished word for word.