A crisis reconnects four young firebrands from college who have grown apart as adults, in a story dense with sensitive scrutiny.
Straddling India and the United States, this tale of friends reunited in disparate maturity is heavy on internal reflection, lighter on events. The highpoint of Armaiti, Nishta, Laleh and Kavita’s student years in late-1970s’ Bombay was their involvement in political activity, in particular a demonstration that saw two of them arrested. Now, three decades later, Nishta, renamed Zoha, has spent years in an oppressive marriage to Iqbal, a Muslim who has grown very devout. Impulsive Laleh is comfortably settled with her influential husband Adish and children; architect Kavita has finally come to terms with her lesbianism; and, in America, Armaiti has just been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor, a catastrophe that pulls the four together again at Armaiti’s request. Laleh and Kavita are free to leave India immediately but Nishta has to be found, persuaded and then assisted to escape. Umrigar (The Weight of Heaven, 2009, etc.) enhances her simple scenario via sympathetic analysis of all perspectives including Iqbal’s and Adish’s, whose final confrontation at the airport reflects some of the prejudices and practices of modern India.
Umrigar extends a boundless, occasionally lyrical sympathy to her cast, but her slender plot, even padded with extensive rumination, still disappoints.