The brisk pace of economic and social change in India does not always bode well for a Bangalore factory owner and his servants.
Anand has a chance to achieve true prosperity at last: Cauvery Auto, the auto parts manufacturer he built from scratch, is courting a major Japanese account. However, the Japanese are entertaining other bids, and in order to bring Cauvery Auto to the necessary level of productivity, Anand needs additional real estate. Largely beneath his notice, Anand’s house servants, house maids Kamala and Thangam and cook Shanta, contend with their own dramas. Kamala, a widow who has been struggling to raise her son, Narayan, ever since being cut off by her brother, hopes to get the boy into a private school, his only chance for upward mobility. Shanta’s husband beats her and steals from her, and Thangam is moonlighting by running a pin-money Ponzi scheme which is on the verge of collapse. Anand’s life has always been run by his vain, spendthrift wife, Vidya, and her meddlesome father, Harry Chinappa. So far, Chinappa’s inroads have been limited to organizing lavish parties bankrolled by Anand. But when Anand hires a “Landbroker” to acquire land from several farmers, Chinappa, without consulting Anand, brokers his own deal. When Anand objects, Chinappa’s politically powerful friends operate behind the scenes to subvert and stymie the Landbroker’s negotiations. So heavily leveraged is Cauvery that the failure of the land acquisition would spell irretrievable ruin for Anand and all who depend on him: not only his wife, children and servants, but Narayan, whom Anand is sponsoring to attend private school. Meanwhile, the humble rental Kamala occupies is being sold to developers, and she and Narayan will shortly be homeless. Having contrived suspenseful ways to get her characters into terrible trouble, the devices deployed by Sankaran to extricate them—or not—do not disappoint.
Sankaran’s debut novel, like her well-received short story collection (The Red Carpet, 2005), is a vivid exposé of modern India’s growing pains.