Workaday first novel from Nepalese-American Upadhyay (stories: Arresting God in Kathmandu, 2001), about a harried schoolteacher and a single mother who fall into a doomed love affair.
In Kathmandu, as in Casablanca, a kiss is just a kiss in the end. Our star-crossed lovers this time are Ramchandra and Malati. Ramchandra is a young math teacher and father of two (a boy of nine, a girl of twelve), unhappily married to the upper-class Goma (whose family expected Ramchandra to make a much bigger success of himself than he has so far). Malati is a teenaged student (and single mother) who hopes to enter the university and comes to Ramchandra for help with her math as she prepares for the entrance exam. Although Ramchandra loves his children dearly, his domestic life is bleak (with a distant, unloving wife) and he’s unhappy with his career (the state school system in Nepal pays badly and is rife with favoritism and corruption)—the perfect mix of conditions for a midlife crisis. Sure enough, he and the enigmatic, passionate Malati find themselves ever-more drawn to each other, and in short order they’ve given up even the pretense of working on Malati’s math exercises. An honest man, Ramchandra confesses the affair to his wife—but since he also tells her that he intends to keep seeing Malati, Goma moves out with the children. This leaves Ramchandra free to pursue Malati with all of the passion he has hitherto struggled to suppress, and she responds to his advances gladly and without hesitation. How will it all end? It wouldn’t be fair to say, but you can be pretty sure that in Nepal, no less than anywhere else, the course of true love is seldom a straight line.
Obvious and rather dull, of interest only for its exotic setting.