THE LIVE OF KESHAV: A Family Story from India by Rama Mehta

THE LIVE OF KESHAV: A Family Story from India

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Keshav's family has caste--which is why his mother is reproached when her husband goes to work as a chaprassi (messenger and sweeper) at the rich boys' school in Udaipur--but, like the family in Untouchable (112, J-48), they are pauperized by their own beliefs and customs, especially costly, confining child-marriages. ""No matter what one does for you people, you continue to destroy yourselves,"" accuses the wife of the local patrician upon learning that Keshav, then fifteen, is about to be married. It is they who've paid for his Udaipur schooling, begun at ten when his night school teacher recognizes that he's bright. The contrast between school and village, Keshav's initial fright and continuing discomfiture (until he strikes a boy who's ridiculed his marriage), and his growing alienation from his old friends is seen against the ever-pressing problems and ever-present strength of his family. Particularly of his mother, the most humble and superstitious and yet most resilient of the lot. There are sharp vignettes of village life throughout: his little sister half-asleep at her wedding, waiting only to escape and play; a Brahmin priest casting away the devil with a great din while Keshav, suffering from a malaria fever, yearns for quiet. He is a superior student, eventually graduating first in his class, evidently assured of going on to engineering college, but the book (is it a matter of an assured status, however humble?) ends very differently from Untouchable: this is a far-seeing affirmation, a fine successor to Ramu (1966).

Pub Date: April 28th, 1969
Publisher: McGraw-Hill