- Author : Ganesh Matkari
- Translator : Jerry Pinto
- Publisher : Speaking Tiger Books
- Genre : Contemporary
- Source : Publisher
- Rating : 3/5 Stars
If you recall my old Read India Challenge I was talking about reading one book, preferably translated, from each state and each language in India. If you didn’t know already there is no language called Indian and we don’t technically have one language. Each state in India has one language or sometimes even more and each language has a rich and diverse selection of literature, each with a distinct style. Maharashtra, the land of Bollywood, actually is the land of Marathi, not Hindi like most would think. And from this gorgeous language I’ve read two translated books, Rau and now Half Open Windows.
Half Open Windows is a story that is based around a group of people directly or indirectly involved in a new and successful architectural firm. There are a lot of people involved and it jumps from perspective to perspective, taking you through the POV and the experience each one is going through. It is more of a societal study than a character study though and I, for one, was completely surprised by the style in which it was written.
WHAT I LIKED : As I mentioned earlier, it jumps from perspective to perspective. Each one with a character introduced in the previous chapters. It isn’t just the people directly involved in the firm, the partners. It also involves a significant other, a child, an intern, an assistant and even an old friend or enemy. I like how the author took up this different style and made it his own. Making each chapter flow from one another almost seeming like a short story within a large story. I also liked that the women here were strong and not weak and gullible like some of the other female characters I have read in regional Indian literature.
The author also takes you to places you won’t expect and tackles topics you won’t be thinking about when reading this. Sometimes regional fiction does handle things a bit more interestingly than English lit and for that I’d definitely recommend reading the former more.
WHAT I DISLIKED : While the chapter thing was great it did not help following the story easily. I thought a lot of details were lost because of this style of storytelling and except for a few the voices didn’t really stand out from each other. The only voice that truly stood out was that of an older woman. The others could be interchanged and if took away from my reading experience to the point that I stopped caring about the characters. But then this is just me and you might enjoy the light surface view the author gives the reader.
Overall, I thought it was a light and interesting read. A new POV style that I enjoyed reading in at times and a few times that left me wanting. I’d say read this if you want a translation by a reputable author.
Set in the enticing yet treacherous city of Mumbai, it closely follows the lives of people connected to SNA Architects, an up-and-coming firm, basking in the glory of their recent success—a high-rise in the premium area of Colaba.
As events unfold, we encounter the corrupt and ruthless Niranjan, founder of SNA, and his associate, Nita, who think bribery is a small price to pay to get to the top; another founder of SNA, the honest but naïve Sanika, and Shushrut, an aspiring writer who is no longer content to play her stay-at-home partner; an NGO worker, Swarupa, torn between her loyalty to an old friend and her duty as a whistle-blower; a lonely widow, Joshi Kaku, who wonders if moving to the US to live with her son and his family—with whom she can forge no connections—is a wise idea; and Ramakant, a young student of architecture, who is contemplating suicide in a desperate bid for attention. Even as this diverse cast of characters chases happiness and success, Mumbai emerges as the central character—the driving force behind their aspirations and dreams, and their ethical compromises.
*Many thanks to the publishers who generously provided me a review copy. Opinions expressed are my own.