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From The Asian Reporter, V18, #39 (September 30, 2008), page 13.
Brilliant, beautiful Indian novel captivates
By Sagarika Ghose
Harper Perennial, 2008
Paperback, 273 pages, $13.95
By Pamela Ellgen
In Sagarika Ghose’s second novel, Blind Faith, Mia, a young Indian woman living in England and drowning in the sorrow of her father’s suicide, is confronted with a choice between two ostensibly opposite men. One generously offers her a life of privilege, travel, and his hand in marriage. The other offers nothing but the opportunity to relinquish these trappings of wealth and wedlock to follow the true path toward Pure Love.
Overwhelming aromas, picturesque landscapes, and poignant characters emanate from the pages of Blind Faith. Ghose’s writing possesses an esoteric, poetic quality that makes the book a perfect vacation read. And for those who can’t break away for a trip, the book takes them on a beautiful journey into England, India, and the chasm in between in the heroine’s heart and mind. Blind Faith’s lofty prose is anchored by Ghose’s attention to detail, a benefit of her 14 years in journalism. Currently, she is the senior editor and prime-time news anchor for CNN-IBN in New Delhi.
Mia is a soft-featured, attractive young journalist — a loosely-autobiographical picture of Ghose herself. The novel begins as Mia enters a world of depression in the wake of her father’s death. In this state, she meets two men who alternately capture her heart and mind. She quickly makes the rational choice and leaves England for India with her new husband, Vikram. But, as one would expect, she cannot relinquish the memory of the other, Karna, an unkempt man travelling with the Purification Journey Brothers.
Mia finds herself settling for the comfort and convenience of Vik, although his bizarre habits and emotional distance confound her. Karna, on the other hand, is everything that Vik is not. He speaks of pure love of the mother woman, a far cry from Vik’s multinational cosmetic peddling. Ultimately, Mia hopes her marriage is the means to an end: reuniting with Karna for the 15-day purification retreat at the Pavitra Ashram in New Delhi.
Complicating Mia’s plan is Vik’s mother, Indi, a central figure both enchanting and demonic. Ghose describes Indi in frightening detail:
"Indi was brutally beautiful. Her beauty had always been as formidable as a conquering army … Her eyes were unlike any other. They were the colour of the ocean in the monsoon, azure streaked with grey, eyes that thundered and stormed under black brows. The straight nose and cheekbones that angled out of her skin were chiselled to knife-edge sharpness but there was nothing pure about Indi. Everything about the voluptuous figure and defiant expression, was brazenly sensual."
The twisting plot and certain surprise keeps Blind Faith compelling until the final pages. It was a pleasure to read and surprisingly thought-provoking for its sincere, almost apologetic presentation. The contrast between Vik and Karna ignites questions within the reader, as it does in Mia, about the inconsistencies in consumerism and asceticism alike. Ghose explores this paradox thoroughly along with the major themes of religion, martyrdom, and motherhood. Thankfully, she steers far away from ever sounding preachy.
Sagarika Ghose attended St. Stephen’s College in New Delhi before winning a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. Her first novel, The Gin Drinkers, brought Ghose further accolade, and for good reason. She is a breath of fresh air. Blind Faith is perfect in the fading heat of summer or for bringing warmth to the rainiest winter.