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Amla Mater, a memoir by Devi Menon is every bit as nostalgia inducing and mouth-watering as the title of this review suggests. Do look it up!
Lovingly made home-made pickles, trees from childhood that became spaceships and the magic faraway tree as and when your imagination soared, a neighbour-cum-best friend who’s family took you in as another member – if any of these strike a chord with you, Devi Menon’s sweetly written and illustrated memoir is up your alley.
Published by New York-based Yali Publications, an independent publisher devoted to South Asian themes, this debut graphic novel is a delightful little book for you to devour on a lazy day and is one you will want to come back to, if you hit a rough reading patch. Alternating between present and past, the story captures an immigrant woman’s pregnancy in London, evocatively and with all the fears, anxiety, excitement and joy that accompanies a pregnancy. The feverish countdown to the birth of the baby is told alongside the narration of a ten-week ritual of the making of a favourite gooseberry pickle.
The longing for a lost friendship runs through the book and without seemingly overtly saccharine, there is a graceful reunion in the end, with both the original pickle as well as the old friend.
I particularly enjoyed Menon’s illustrations and the nuggets of rural Kerala, and the imagery it evoked of the socio-cultural mores of the times from Mili’s (the protagonist) childhood- the sprawling houses, the joint families, the rigid social customs and the agricultural livelihoods.
Descriptive writing and the simple pencil sketches that bring alive scenes of a variety of places – rush-hour commuters’ London, paying guest accommodation at an orthodox household in Chennai, a job at an IT park in Bangalore and the protagonist’s suburban London flat- the author has no trouble in gracefully narrating these scenes through her illustrations and easily-relatable writing. Sample this: ‘There is a peculiar sense of wellbeing that you only get from watching reality shows and commiserating with disillusioned colleagues’.
While characters like Padma Paati, the protagonist’s loving yet inquisitive landlord in Chennai and Nandini, her friend from Bangalore, keep flitting in and out of the book, the story of how she fell in love and married the baker is very well done through a series of panels that spoke of the joys of an inter-cultural union. As a reader, I only wished that the baker’s character and some other details were better fleshed out. However, the pristine, unpretentious writing that had me running to the amla pickle in my fridge, will call out to you, if you have homes across the world, or are trying to find one.
If you’d like to pick up Amla Mater by Devi Menon, use our affiliate links: at Amazon India, and at Amazon US. You can also buy it here.
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Top image via Goodreads and book cover via Amazon
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"There is a story and a vision which makes us gravitate towards cinema. Even as we worked as assistants on ads, we realised that cinema was our true calling," say Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh Raseen.
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Let me introduce to you the talented designer duo who have worked on these, and can be considered today’s upcoming costume designers for the screen. Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh.
Having studied at NIFT, Gunpreet Kaur Mann sent her portfolio out to several designers. Her first gig was as an assistant stylist with Manoshi and Rushi, who also happen to be a designer duo. She worked on an ad film starring Saif Ali Khan and eventually landed a full time job with designer Vikram Phadnis. Years of experience as assistant costume designer followed, which eventually led her to getting a break.
A ‘thank you’ makes a lot of difference in the way any woman in your life sees herself in your eyes. It might even mean the world to her.
I have not received any appreciation in the past. Probably never will. This is the experience of ample women across the globe. The expectation to be thanked for all the sacrifices she makes to keep others happy has faded. Yet the urge to hear few words of acknowledgement always lingers.
There is never a day when she pushes off her own burdens. She knows not to give up on people she loves. Women in general, are givers by nature and hence, give without asking anything in return. They have been the care givers and lovers since centuries however receive no appreciation.
It will mean the world to your mother if you answer her calls. If your sister seems lost give her a hug and assure her about her strengths. Tomorrow, there might come a day when you would have to make your daughter feel empowered with few words of wisdom every now and then. For the children to feel wanted and loved, you must be able to spare some quality time with your wife and be present in the moment.
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