THE CROW EATERS by Bapsi Sidhwa


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All the good in the world comes from serving your own ends. . . . My needs, my wants--make one flexible, elastic, humble."" This is the modest pronouncement of 65-year-old Faredoon (Freddy) Junglewalla, a venerated eminence in the Parsi community in 1940 Lahore, Punjab. But, in her random grapple within a little grab-bag of incidents, Sidhwa--herself a Parsi from Lahore--extracts some admirable humanity and a drop of pathos from tough-apple Freddy and his generally dutiful family. . . along with some belabored scatalogical humor. Freddy's prime problems: verbal blasts from his thunderous mother-in-law Jerbanoo; and how to avoid crushing insurance premium payments on his business. His solutions? Arson--which pays off handsomely. And a murder attempt on Jerbanoo--which flops: her window-ledge near-immolation scene, played before thrilled crowds and desperate firemen, establishes her more firmly than ever as an elemental force, probably immortal. Freddy himself will, however, survive real suffering: favorite son Soli will die, as prophesied; son Yazli, thwarted and humiliated by Freddy's certainly cruel exposure of Yazli's beloved as a prostitute, will drift away out of sight. And finally, after greedy son Billy takes over the business and weds charming Tanya, Freddy takes his wife and mother-in-law to England--where Jerbanoo will cause general havoc and reduce a frantic former memsahib to a screaming wreck. Throughout, Freddy takes a pragmatic view of Indian-Anglo relationships: ""We are the greatest toadies of the British Empire. . . . These are not ugly words but the sweet dictates of our delicious need to exist. For us the sun rises--and sets--in the Englishman's arse."" And after independence? ""Let Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, or whoever, rule. What does it matter? The sun will continue to rise--and. . . set--in their arses."" Despite some leaden and/or vulgar hijinks--a curious mix of Parsi rites and rumbles, prides and prejudices, and the cosy warmth of a family reminiscence session.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's