An interesting aside to A Suitable Boy this week...
I am slowly learning the politics of all this and must confess I have not felt moved to do any background reading for fear of turning a pleasurable read into a GCSE exam, so beyond knowing that Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India and a leading light in the country thereafter, knowledge is only shaping up for me as the book allows it to and I want to keep it that way.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had just been mentioned in the book when we came across this unfinished portrait of Vijay Lakshmi Pandit at the Laura Knight exhibition which opened at the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery this week.
This the recent portrait exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery which has miraculously traversed the broken Dawlish sea wall to reach us, and we are keeping it until May so expect much more about it all on here.
Vijay Lakshmi Pandit was Nehru's sister, the aunt of Indira Gandhi and a diplomat and ambassador for many years. The portrait, possibly unfinished because Vijay travelled so much, not only gives a wonderful insight into the construction of Laura Knight's paintings (look at the elegance of those hands) but also a glimpse of a very beautiful woman, serene and dignified.
Right...firstly Part 11 of A Suitable Boy and a few scattered thoughts..
As soporific to read in part as it must have been to sit through. Lengthy legal ramblings that I will be very honest almost defeated me, and had I been wavering over whether to continue reading A Suitable Boy or not, well this might have been my throwing in the towel point.
Thankfully it wasn't, though I am still very confused about the whole issue of zamandars and who actually won the case. This might however be because I was reading whilst drinking a pot of hot chocolate in the Bedford Hotel and life was going around me. I also think this might be a point where reading from the book is far better than reading on a Kindle, where it seemed endless, but now I look it was only twenty pages or so
But how sad it would be to have given up at this stage in the book and miss what was coming next, and I will remember to say this should anyone ask me about reading A Suitable Boy in the future.
Now for the Pul Mela.
The pilgrimage to bathe in the Ganges and the carnage that followed...
'There was complete and dreadful chaos...'
Says Vikram Seth in so few words, but enough to convey the fear. One thousand people dead in fifteen terrifying minutes and I was holding my breath as Bhaskar slipped from his mother's grasp.
And despite L.N.Agarwal coming under siege from all directions with accusations of disorganisation and poor planning, how I respected him as he took charge despite knowing that Priya, his own daughter. was in the melee.
Interesting contrasts between the Hindu grief juxtaposed with the Muslim revelry of Ramazan and overtones of lack of respect between the two opposing religions...
Part 12 saw me relishing every page again as Mrs Rupa Mehra and Lata return to Brahmpur from Lucknow and all the threads of 'suitable boys' are starting to weave together and connect.
At mention of Haresh, I suspect Mrs R.M.'s boy of preference, and with reference to the awkward presence of 'some girl in his life,' didn't you love Vikram Seth's description of her determination...
'Mrs Rupa Mehra made it clear by her tone that an armoured corps of Sikh damsels could not come between her and her target...'
I suspect we have treats and embarrassments a-plenty in store with Lata's Olivia playing opposite Kabir's Malvolio in the production of Twelfth Night...
and sadness to come with Kabir's visit to his mother and her dementia.
And Pran, oh dear. I am worried for Pran and it's all bound to kick off just as Savita's baby is born.
Meanwhile Maan re-enters the fray on his return from exile and as if on cue, though not his fault, the student riots start..
'One cannot run a state by kindness,' says the beleagured L.N. Argarwal, 'a rigid man who for all his intelligence, lacked any human touch.'
'He dreaded to think of running one on nothing but discipline and fear,' thinks Sharma, the Chief Minister, before relieving the Home Minister of the problem.
Another little aside and mention of the Oxford college with a pelican perched on a pillar in the quad...bet that's Corpus Christi where I stayed many moons ago for the Oxford Literary Festival I thought...
Vikram Seth's alma mater.
Looking back at the unfinished portrait of Vijay Lakshmi Pandit and I can only liken it to the ever-broadening canvas of this book, those early sketches slowly filling with colour and shape and intrigue. Who can know what detail Laura Knight had in mind to fill in next, and I am starting to think the same about Vikram Seth.
Over to you, I hope a few of you are hanging on in there and didn't throw in the towel, and we reconvene on Saturday April 12th for Parts 13 & 14 barring Acts of God or natural disasters or circumstances beyond my control that is.