A presentation with excerpt by Mukur of Ma Yoga Girisha’s (Pamela McGarry) novel.
The Unsuitable Bride
by Pamela McGarry / Ma Yoga Girisha
Publisher: pmcgarry (February 21, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 1777513405
ISBN-13 : 978-1777513405
This controversial novel set in India and London was a finalist in Canada’s 2022 WIBA (Whistler Independent Book Awards).
An extract from a review in BC’s Coast Reporter: (www.coastreporter.net) reads:
“The story begins just before the outbreak of the Second World War and brings us in decades-long leaps close to the present day. It is set largely in steaming, teeming, and ever-decaying Calcutta (now Kolkata), and on the grand tea estates of Assam. London also plays a major role, as the protagonist, Nina, is born to a British family in India. They live in an opulent neighbourhood, and her father is a judge in Calcutta’s high court during the final years of the British colonial presence in the 1940s. But Nina’s mother dies giving her birth.”
The infant is nurtured by a young Indian woman, Karuna, much to the relief of Nina’s widower father. Years later, Nina must leave India and live in England with her father. She suffers as an unwilling exile until she meets and marries Deven Archarya, an Indian lawyer living in London. Only then is she able to return home to her beloved India. So eager is she, that she precedes her husband to his family estate in the tea-lands of Assam. “Go,” he tells her, “I will come.” But Dev takes his time.
On the first night of her arrival, Nina realizes to her horror that without a husband’s protection she faces living in a sexually dangerous environment.
I lay down on the bed in the room that would be ours, Deven’s and mine. The jalousie blinds were open still, the night sounds thickening in the growing dark behind the barred window. I could hear the peacocks’ cries in the farthest part of the garden where the girls lolled in hammocks under the shade trees. Earlier, they brought me tea and refreshments and took the baby from me to be presented to his grandfather, the patriarch, Balram Acharya. ‘Now you can bathe in peace,’ one of them said, the baby in her arms. ‘You must be tired after your journey.’ The other girl pointed to two zinc buckets in the bathroom. Warm water, the steam rising. When the girls departed, I undressed and bathed, trickling the water over my grateful body. Afterwards, wrapped in the light cotton sari left for me on the dresser, I tumbled onto the bed.
I must have dozed off and woken hours later. The louvred blinds had been closed and somebody had let down the mosquito nets around my bed. I could see the oil lamp and the dim spillage of light across the dresser where it sat. Heard the clock ticking and the slow cycling of the ceiling fan, then a voice so disembodied and blurred it dissolved into the quiet, and I slipped back into sleep. I imagined it.
I had not imagined it. Neither did I dream the parting of the mosquito netting, the smell of almond oil and soap smudging the air and creeping into my nostrils. He said not a word as he lay down beside me. He did not touch my face but his hand knew where to go, to exact from that place a levy and privilege and all that was due to him in his house.
When Deven eventually arrives at the family home it’s the beginning of a new life for them both. But it’s not the life Nina dreamt of. What follows is a page-turner of a family saga with themes of home and displacement and the unravelling of dark mysteries and ignoble secrets. It is also a murder mystery, a love story, a saga of loss and liberation.
The Ormsby Review (now The BC Review: thebcreview.ca) describes the prose as “absolutely beautiful, capturing the very essence of India – the sights, the sounds and the smells – and transports her readers to a land both exotic and hostile. It made me want to keep turning pages until the very end.”
The Unsuitable Bride is of course a work of fiction, but when living in India, Girisha heard of the shocking but real accounts of the ‘forbidden relationships’ she describes in her novel. The subject is well documented in articles and studies related to family dynamics.
Girisha lived in the Poona ashram with husband, Somendra, and son, Dheeresh. She worked in the office with Laxmi. The friends and beloveds she met there remained so through the decades. Currently she lives with PJ (Parajayo) in beautiful British Columbia where they write their stories and watch the sun rise and set over the surrounding mountains and lakes.