Under the Mango Tree -Fiction
Author: Bina Pillai
Format: Kindle Edition
Bina Pillai's novel, Under the Mango Tree, handles a bitter-sweet, woman-centred, family saga theme. Amazon blurb starts—"Diya Nair is eighteen, a diligent student, hopelessly in love with Aditya. Married against her wishes to Rajagopal, ten years older than her, Diya is exposed to an orthodox family where they follow archaic customs that are alien to her modern upbringing. "
The story opens with Diya getting ready in her custom riddled ancestral home for her marriage broken-heatedly. Litle expectations about her bridegroom brighten her. Her mind invokes candid memory of Aditya—her love. They together had woven dreams to live to bring fruition to their passion. But it is not he that she is getting ready to marry. Rajagopal is her bridegroom, ten years older than her. Her parents chose him in an arranged marriage, forcing her to drop her studies.
"Diya, one day we will be sitting under the shade of this tree, relishing its fruits of love… you and I forever," Diya remembers Aditya's words.
Marriage in Diya's culture, a simple ritual—tying the knot—Rajagopal fails to accomplish. Diya overhears her friend's apprehensive reaction about that— "Did that fiasco with the magalsutra happen because Rajagopal was not the right man for Diya?"
After the wedding, Diya accompanies Rajagopal. She meets people in rural conveniences, backward compared to her habits. Women accepted male-dominated customs without batting an eyelid. Rajagopal saw her as a sex machine, a mechanical device to fulfil his needs, obey his rules, and above all, a dummy of no thinking, individuality and personal preferences. It was a relationship of no romance, love, and care.
"He sat on a chair and looked out of the window. Diya watched his bored expression, wondering if he had no interest in anything. He neither wanted to go out and explore nor spend some time trying to know her. The moment she switched on to music, he ordered her to switch off. Diya couldn't understand whether it was utter laziness or his general disinterest in life."
I read the books taking time only because my engagements didn't allow me to go for it in a single stretch. Whenever I took a break, disturbing anxiety haunted me how Diya would resolve the nagging issue of dealing with the disconnect with her husband.
Diya wants to lead a life to fulfil her ambition—follow her passion, help people, connect with others. The prolonged and deliberate hit back from Rajagopal forces her to get separated from him. She reaches it like an asymptote and bounces back, not once, several times.
But she needs love, romantic love, and to be loved. How she finds her passion? What kind of a mother is she to her children?
Bina's Pillai story shows many shades of Indian woman's life. How many of them wouldn't stop while reading the book to reflect on what happens in their own life, ponder and sigh?
To me, the end was predictable. How else would a bitter-sweet cocktail draw to a conclusion?
Her language is charming and wonderfully conveys emotion and connection to keep the readers on her side.
I find it wanting in the book as a reader is to get better grounded in the setting. It is the dialogue that shifts the scenes, and that too sometimes miss connections from the previous.