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Bird in a Banyan Tree is the memoir of fashion designer and socialite Bina Ramani, a very powerfully told story of her rise and fall.
Review by Paromita Bardoloi
A child born into wealth, a happy childhood, growing up in London, being wooed by none other than Shammi Kapoor, one can call Bina Ramani’s life a fairy tale. But no matter how beautiful the moon looks on a crystal clear night, it has spots on it. Bina Ramani’s life is far from perfect; it is a life lived with grit and determination. There is love, failure, heartbreak and most important, comebacks.
The book begins on a bleak note in the courts of Delhi, the day she was transported to Tihar Jail following the Jessica Lal murder case. She rewinds to her growing up years in a traditional Sikh family in Bombay, where boys were groomed to be heirs to the business and girls to be married off. After school, she was sent off to Lady Irwin College in Delhi to study home science as befitted a rich girl. After a year, they shifted to London and their business thrived. Though London brought her close to the modern world, yet the focus at home was completely on being a homemaker.
The book candidly talks about the Kapoors and her romantic liaison with the then heartthrob of the silver screen – Shammi Kapoor. She ended up marrying Andy Ramani and moving to San Francisco. Her marriage of 13 years with Andy Ramani was far from perfect. Dealing with his abusive behaviour, handing over 80 percent of her income to him, and raising two daughters single-handedly, she faced it all before calling it quits. It is here she says that we Indian woman are groomed to believe in a happily ever after scenario. Our self-images are built on it and we have nothing else to hold on to. Thus, we accept a man no matter what he does.
The divorce did not come easily. It took four years in the courts of Delhi, Mumbai and New York and it was only when Ram Jethmalani stepped in that the divorce papers came through. Bina had to almost kidnap her daughters from New York and get them back to Sanawar School to give them an education; otherwise their father was ready to put them in a local public school in Yonker, a low-income neighbourhood in New York. She did it all even though she was diagnosed with cancer, which she miraculously survived after a surgery.
She settled in Delhi and began her struggle as a fashion designer, putting ‘Hauz Khas’ village together as a hub for artist and artisans. She describes her meeting with George whom she finally married. As life seemed to settle down, one fine night Jessica Lal is killed in her restro-bar. Then began seven years of struggle.
This book is a living testimony of her never-dying spirit and a reminder that life comes with trials and tribulations but there is always a way out. Not to forget it gives a glimpse to the who’s who in the world map – from Richard Gere to Indira Gandhi. An inspiring book and a recommended read. You will definitely look at your life a little differently. This is the promise the book carries.
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Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.
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