Sera Dubash, a Parsi upper middle class housewife, is haunted by the demons of her tumultuous marriage with a physically and mentally abusive husband and an equally "monster" of a mother-in-law. The aging Bhima, has worked for the Dubash's for a long time and is not only trusted with cooking and cleaning the house but is also a confidant of Sera.
The two women live in worlds as apart from each other as a silk sari and a torn, faded cotton one. But they share an inexplicable bond over cups of mint tea which Sera likes light and milky and Bhima prefers strong and sugary.
Thrity weaves a beautiful tale of the two women who have been betrayed by the men in their lives and their only hope and reason for living is their progeny. For Sera it is the promise of a grandson her daughter, Dinaz, is carrying inside her. Bhima's light at the end of the tunnel is her intelligent college going grand daughter, Maya, who, hopefully, will escape the squalor of the slums.
The story comes to a head when 17 year old Maya gets pregnant with the handsome but callous Feroz, Dinaz's husband. Bhima's and Sera's loyalties towards each other and their families are tested when the secret comes out in the open.
Thrity shines a bright light on the arrogance of the rich, the tenacity of the poor, the sense of entitlement that comes with money and the desperation of having no money.
Is it any wonder the book kept me up till I finished reading it? A couple of cups of mint tea helped along the way. Now, if only I had the batata vada with chutney on the side to go with them. Hmmm...
I had never made mint tea before but gave it a try and here's the recipe.
2 cups water
1/4 cup milk
4 tsp sugar (or to taste)
2 tsp tea leaves (i used a mix of Vagh Bakri and Brook Bond Red Label)
4-5 mint leaves
Combine all the ingredients except the mint leaves. Boil till the sugar dissolves and the bubbling liquid turns a reddish brown color.
Add the mint leaves and boil for another minute. Turn off the heat and strain into tea cups.
Sip the minty goodness.
PS: I would like to nitpick just one tiny point. For a talented writer like Thrity I did not expect to read the word 'unconscious thought' when she meant 'subconscious thought'. There is a huge difference between the two words. The former means comatose or passed out while the latter means intuitive. And she used the phrase not once but twice.