I am in love this summer with stories from India, set in India, associated with India. Coovadia’s novel explores issues of class, love, and exile as his protagonist, Ismet, spies from a train window the woman he believes is destined to be his bride, Khateja, while traveling across India for business. He breaks with his usual caution and leaves the train, seeks out the woman, finds her father, and arranges for their marriage. Khateja is a woman ahead of her time and her rural custom who desires an independent life, but finds herself sold away to Ismet. She is the stereotypical shrew and seeks to make Ismet’s life miserable as compensation for his tearing her from her comfortable rural life. He waits patiently, keeping faith with the destiny that sent him to her, and eventually, after they have spent several years in South Africa, she falls in love and realizes it has happened.
Coovadia has created fascinating characters and an entrancing setting.
My frustration with the novel is that, after many chapters of the struggle, they fall in love and Ismet, who waited so long for her to come around, marries a second, younger wife. What was going on there? Is this another Coover fairy tale, that it’s about the quest, not the object of the quest? Another grim reality.