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Journalist-turned-writer Pinki Virani examines the crisis which underlies the facade of progressive modernity that is present-day India through a set of characters you may have met. If not directly, then through the six degrees of separation which thread together this story of a life-changing weekend. The voice is that of Saraswati, librarian and collector of curious facts, who dies among her beloved books on Thursday evening. Until her body is discovered on Monday, her spirit is free to play sutradhar and watch over all she holds dear: her sister Damayanti, wife of a superstar; Tisca, heroine spurned by a rising star; Qudsia Begum, Bangalore beautician and wise mother; Czaerandhari, erstwhile maharani and sms-addict; hard-talking journalist Nafisa, does she hide a secret? Yet: Saraswati’s stories are not only about women who wait for their idea of heaven to happen. There is the wily husband of Bhagyalakshmi, scooty-driving bank-employee transposed from cultured Chennai to dusty Delhi. And in Bombay, the two men who leave Manya bleeding; her rightwing father and right-thinking twin brother. And yet: Saraswati’s stories are not about the men who eclipse the happiness of their women. They are about a society where the forces of Olde Bharat battle with India. Where change has to be wrested from tradition, often with calamitous effects. And where hope constantly chafes against the trepidation of socio-political chaos. This is fiction that dares to subvert form, structure and expectations to hold up a mirror to a nation at tipping point.
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