There are not many books that talk about the stories of Indians who leave motherland for various reasons and settle down in foreign countries. The stories of these individuals and their families are each potential best-sellers. There are so many suppressed emotions and buried plots waiting to be unearthed and unleashed to the world. That way, Pankaj Dubey’s ‘Love Curry‘ published by Penguin Random House India is a very interesting addition to this not so long list. It isn’t merely the story of an Indian, we also have a Pakistani and a Bangladeshi who bring in additional flavours to this book.
Away from homelands and out of their protective nets, you will always find the subcontinental borders melting away and a natural brotherhood flourishing amidst citizens of these sister nations. That is precisely the premise of this book, but then there is more. Loaded with their versions of pain, misery, aspiration, and compulsion, Rishi from India, Shehzad from Bangladesh and Ali from Pakistan land in London and end up being flatmates. But a new storm awaits them there in the form of Zeenat, who is very much the human version of Bollywood.
The book opens with a very passionate chapter that can slap you awake and drag you into the story. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself smiling or grinning or laughing out loud in the middle of a seemingly romantic chapter. That is thanks to Pankaj’s wit and humour that is strewn all over. And I assure you, that you will experience the same phenomenon throughout the book, even as the plot thickens and that makes the read quite enjoyable. Then comes the personal cross that each of our characters carries with them.
Not just the trio, but also the story of Zeenat and her father Mullah, are a short yet intriguing peek into the disturbing lives of the men and women who are constantly at war while trying to make a fresh start in a faraway land. It is very interesting to see the author use a thread from their pasts to establish their present-day existence. I especially loved the part where he explains how it was a natural evolution for Shehzad to become a tattoo artist and Mullah naming his daughter Zeenat. I couldn’t help but smile when I realized why the book was titled ‘Love Curry’ and how that is a thread that moves the second part of this tale.
An unfortunate catastrophe brings about a series of events some of which eventually take our characters to the home they dearly want and deserve. Before they get there, they must endure a few more seismic attacks including racial discrimination and wrongful detention. However, as always the sense of brotherhood prevails and help arrives just in time.
While the book is essentially a story of love and friendship, it is knit into an engaging tale by putting together the many elements that define the connections between the three countries that our Romeos hail from. I am no longer surprised how cricket is an indispensable character in all stories that involve these countries. So, I did manage to keep a straight face when Ali and Rishi fought over an Indo-Pakistan cricket match, however, the discussions that happened around the could-bes and would-bes if only our countries decide to tear down the differences and redraw the borderlines once and for all were quite exciting. As wishful as they might sound, the ray of hope that was glistening through those discussions is too hard to miss.
Finally comes the most important of our connections and the one that warms our heart to the greatest extent- our Curries. The mutual love that we share for the biryanis, kebabs, and the endless list of flavourful curries is that one weapon which can probably destroy the elements of hate and bring about harmony. Need I mention how it is only right that it be honoured with the place in the title of the book?
The perky narration and the lively dialogues, makes the book sound like a half-done Bollywood screenplay. Don’t tell us that we didn’t warn you, when Love Curry hits the big screen, especially because Pankaj is also a filmmaker. I have only one suggestion for whoever makes a movie out of this – please skip the political conversations that happen among the trio in the second part. It is a little too stretched and unbelievable that these misfits would discuss subcontinental politics with their head in the guillotine. Otherwise, I would say go for it. It is an easy and engaging read and just the right kind of book you need to calm those nerves during these times of uncertainty.