No Onions Nor Garlic

Srividya Natarajan

Read May 2007

Natarajan's comedy of manners aims to send up the pretentions of the TamBrahm. The cast (ahem) is readily familiar: the bloviating paterfamilias, the long-suffering (but perhaps sneakily subversive) spouse, the excessively reverential and excessively irreverent children, the wondrously rich American sociologist, and so forth. All this machinery is brought to bear to make some sort of point about the mistreatment of scheduled castes. For the most part a childishly exaggerated tone mars this novel, and the plot largely fails to engage. The one point of tension is, in fact, marred by the ridiculous (people biting other people on the ankles). And twice in the book, the writer—who has adopted the voice of the third-person observer and narrator—injects herself, to no particular effect. In short, a promising theme is disappointingly executed in banal and sometimes absurd fashion.