PARO: Dreams of Passion by Namita Gokhale

PARO: Dreams of Passion

Email this review


I am writing about them because I saw myself in her."" So begins this slight, occasionally amusing, often intriguing first novel: a young Indian woman's tale of upper-middle-class mores in Bombay and Delhi--with the emphasis on social climbing, adultery, and decadence. The narrator is youngish, sardonic Priya, who begins her story back in the Sixties, when she was secretary (and sometime lover) to B.R., the smooth owner of Bombay's Sita Sewing Machine company. For a wife, however, B.R. chooses the charismatic, glamorous Paro--while Priya, obsessively envious of Paro, has to settle for an arranged marriage to plump Delhi lawyer Suresh. A few years pass. Now, thanks to Suresh's single-minded social-climbing, Priya is solidly ensconced in Delhi society. Now, after leaving B.R. and several lovers, Paro is a daring, chic ""conversation piece at parties""--a prototypical ""bad girl"" who befriends the half-amused, half-enthralled, relatively staid Priya. And, in the decade that follows, Priya will remain basically loyal to Paro through tawdry ups and downs: Paro's suicide attempts; her affairs with a flaky Minister's son, a sadistic politician; her marriage to a homosexual European filmmaker; and even her apparent attempt to seduce Priya's conventional hubby Suresh--which triggers the near-collapse of this barely tenable marriage. (After a painful miscarriage, Priya has been unable to have children.) First-novelist Gokhale never quite succeeds in illuminating Priya's obsession with shallow, selfish, flashy Paro--despite the detailing of sexual fantasies and triangular tensions. Along the way, however, there are curious glimpses of a largely (yet not entirely) westernized Indian milieu--where arranged marriages and funeral pyres coexist with Oxbridge accents, women's lib, and black satin bedsheets.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1984
Publisher: Chatto & Windus--dist. by Merrimack (47 Pelham Rd., Salem, NH 03079)