By Nawaid Anjum
Noomi Wadia, the younger protagonist of Naheed Phiroze Patel’s debut, A Mirror Manufactured from Rain, shares an odd relationship with mirrors. “I cherished how they brightened up a room, echoing mild from one wall to the opposite, however normally I most well-liked avoiding my very own reflection, at all times afraid of what I’d uncover if I appeared too carefully.”
Noomi’s concern roots itself deeply in her poisonous and dysfunctional relationship together with her mom, Asha, whose descent into alcoholism scars her endlessly. “A mom is the primary mirror by which we see ourselves. However what if the mirror you look into is damaged? You would possibly see your self at all times in items, no use to anybody, and take that as reality,” she displays in some unspecified time in the future within the novel, which is an exploration into the household as an oppressive milieu that engenders discord and derangement, and residential as a web site of violence and inequality.
A Mirror Manufactured from Rain, the story of a household undone by dependancy and anxiousness, begins in medias res, with the narrator Noomi taking us to the lavish get together of Sheila Sehgal in Kamalpur, a small city the place everybody is aware of everybody and the place “shame lurks at each nook”. It’s on the get together that we meet the novel’s fascinating forged of characters, schmoozing and sashaying alongside of their fineries. Sheila, picky about her visitor record but aware of the tribal hierarchies that govern her phrases of social engagement, additionally invitations Lily Mama, Noomi’s grandmother, who comes from an previous aristocratic household. The Wadia family contains Noomi’s father Jeh and her overbearing grandfather Zal Papa. Noomi and Jeh should inform everybody Asha is ‘sick’ to elucidate her absence on the get together.
Alternating between previous and current, the novel unspools the dissonance, fragility and rupture that lie at its coronary heart, layer by layer, in delicately wrought and dexterous passages throughout its 4 components. All glad households are alike, however each dysfunctional household is dysfunctional in its personal means. Noomi’s childhood recollections are all sad, owing to the neglect by her ‘absent’ mom, who stays spiteful in direction of her younger baby even because the latter struggles to hunt her acceptance; “Cruelty was a language I discovered at my mom’s knee”. For need of motherly love and care, Noomi turns to her father, Jeh, ayah Shanta Bai and Lily Mama at numerous phases of her growing-up years, and all three turn out to be her emotional bulwark towards her mom’s callous indifference.
Nevertheless, Noomi, who recreates her previous by reminiscence, stays saddled with a damaged sense of self whilst she hurtles from a lonely childhood and adolescence to a troubled maturity, taking pictures at love and intercourse. A lot of Noomi’s sorrow and struggling are a results of her being a witness to her mother and father’ failing marriage, which was destroying them slowly, “like termites consuming a home”. A ‘weak-willed’ Jeh couldn’t ask for divorce despite the fact that their marriage was a ‘sham’, wracked and ruptured by Asha’s fixed consuming, her frequent breakdowns and tantrums. Pleasure makes Noomi uncomfortable, “like a pair of ill-fitting, pinching footwear”. Unhappiness sits on her shoulder “like a heavy chicken”; it’s a “lake; for those who explored its depths, it swallowed you complete”.
Feisty and rebellious as an adolescent, Noomi finally ends up being a conformist when she falls in love with, and later marries, Veer Malhotra, who comes from an stereotypically upper-middle class New Delhi household — “one full of slender minds and outsized ambition”, succumbing to Veer household’s pressures for a conventional Punjabi marriage ceremony. Days earlier than the marriage, Noomi struggles onerous to adapt to the stifling traditions of Veer’s household; her in-laws insist she should hold Karva Chauth quick, and contact not simply their but additionally Veer’s ft, reminding her how she had stumbled upon a ‘actual diamond’ in him. When she mentions all this to her father, he advises her to lie down and take it; “Peace in any respect prices” is his frequent chorus. It’s as a result of, he says, he doesn’t need her to overlook the possibility to be “proud of somebody who loves her”.
Unable to manage, Noomi should take frequent swigs from the vodka bottle secretly stashed in her suitcase to let the horrid recollections of her disagreeable encounters together with her in-laws fall from her pores and skin “like leeches doused with salt”. Her mom was a ‘brittle gemstone’ who cracked simply, however Noomi had hoped that her marriage with Veer could be completely different as she was a “nicer individual” with him round: kinder, with softer edges, much less offended. Nevertheless, the prices of taking part in by the foundations of the household, principally set by males, are heavy; the rituals and traditions are all designed to stress ladies into acquiescence, make them comply. Noomi is fast to grasp that her in-laws don’t fairly like her, however some ultimate of a daughter-in-law. “They like a lie.” So Noomi lives a lie, typically striving to cover one thing or the opposite from them, “mendacity about who I used to be”.
For Noomi, mendacity down and taking all that occurs on the Malhotra family doesn’t finish properly. Within the course of, she finally ends up being in the identical state as her mom, as if she had turn out to be an inheritor to Asha’s historical past, her dependancy and irascibility: “Anger… is a cliff. Standing at its edge, life appeared smaller, additional away. However cliffs are lonely, harmful locations.” If her mom drank to ease the “signs of residing as a lady”, Noomi drinks, she tells her psychiatrist, in order that she feels that “the universe isn’t so malevolent”. Telling her story turns into an act of “wanting again on the years sewn collectively by the presence or the absence of a bottle in my mom’s arms — in my arms”.
The poise of the novel’s syntax is elegant, but unshowy; you by no means get the sense that Patel is attempting to tug out all stops or throwing rather a lot within the novel’s bag a lot that it buckles because of its weight. She is a author with a keenly discriminating and distancing eye in the case of gender bias within the higher echelons of society and the violence transmitted by the “most innocuous-seeming acts”. The dynamics of the poisonous, dysfunctional and anxiety-ridden mother-daughter relationship has been the thread sewn into fiction by a number of writers within the current previous, together with Avni Doshi in Burnt Sugar (Woman in White Cotton). A Mirror Manufactured from Rain appears at this relationship, fraught with pitfalls, empathetically and in an unflinching method.
When Noomi arrives in New York following Veer’s posting there, a hurricane is all set to wreak havoc. When the storm clouds break open, the rains make the window right into a mirror that throws the smiling reflections of the household — Noomi, Veer and their new child daughter Maya — again at them. Noomi is aware of her relationship with mirrors is all set to alter.
Nawaid Anjum is a Delhi-based impartial tradition journalist
A Mirror Manufactured from Rain
Naheed Phiroze Patel
Rs 599, Pp 296