As human adults, we all have had to come/will come to confront our existence at some point in our lives. For some, it happens as early as teenagers and for some, not even when they touch their 50s! Such is life. But whenever this crisis of existence and identity engulfs a person, what comes out is a survivor, a diamond from the gallows of the mine. Anita: End of a Beginning by Renuka Guru is the story of a young Scottish girl, adopted by an Indian couple, trying to find her identity in a cultural potpourri that her life is.
When Rama and Gopalan had decided to adopt the little baby girl who had one day been brought to their doorstep by the social workers, they hadn’t known that she would soon become an integral part of their lives, so important that they would care for her more than their own biological child, Hari. naming her Anita was Hari’s choice, for he could see in her a friend that he once had and lost. Growing up with Indian parents was not as difficult as one would think. Anita gelled well with her parents and her elder brother. She made a best friend in her neighbor and schoolmate Katie. Life was pretty smooth and happy barring the occasional jibes of her grandparents, who were neither happy with their daughter-in-law Rama, nor her. Over the years, they had both made their peace with the fact that they’d never be considered good enough by them.
Living under the sky of Edinburgh in an Indian house set up, Anita was adept at managing the questions thrown at her regarding her family as much as she was good at following two religions that the household followed, Hinduism for her parents and brother and Christianity for herself until she became a teenager and started attracting the attention of boys, one in particular. With everyone in her family questioning her for the choice she makes, Anita finds herself scornful all the time and eager to leave the house and start living on her own. Cut to some troubled years later, Rama and Gopalan decide to move back to India after Hari leaves for Havard to take care of their aging and ailing parents. Anita, out of the blue and definitely out of her character decides to go with them. Now in the land of her adoptive parents, Anita finds herself defying her family even more than she used to in Edinburgh. Will she be able to survive in a place to which she has no connections?
Starting with the book on a medium-range expectation, I found it to be just above average. The plot deals with a lot of topics, adoption, immigration, parenting, teenage, old age, inter-cultural/race differences, and thus, multiple subplots, but somehow they all converge towards the end. The story in itself is quite offbeat and better narration could have done more good to the overall appeal. The story moves at lightning speed. Years are skipped in a matter of sentences or at most, a chapter. I would have loved more explicit details and explanations here and there. The point of view isn’t restricted to the protagonist, instead, it flits between several characters, some which seem unnecessary at the beginning, some whose importance is evident only towards the end and some who come and go and come back. A striking feature of the characters in the story is that the reader understands them completely, a character sketch that you may call it, in the few words and instances that the author writes. For some, it may be cliché, the characters. For example, the son of a politician will be a brat. Anita, the protagonist’s character is dubiously layered. On one hand, she rebels against her Indian parents to go out with a boy whom they find unacceptable, and on the other, she loses it completely when something bad happens to her. I was expecting her to be strong and show some grit but the way she turns out is understandable, and not unexpected. She is lost yet resolves to find her own way. Her coming of age, and to terms with the realities of life is heartbreaking to the point where I felt like reaching to her and shaking her up, asking her to move on.
A one time read this book can be picked up if one likes a pandora’s box of human emotions and behavior in their stories.