Sunday, April 12, 2009

No Onions Nor Garlic - Srividya Natarajan

Set in Chennai, the novel opens with a dramatic rendering of 'A Midsummer's Night Dream'. It turns out to be dramatic presentation of Murphy's Laws instead. From this funny opening, No Onions Nor Garlic lapses into umpteen cliches about Tamil Brahmins (or Tambrahms as they are commonly referred to), some more about the Dalit community, academic life and everything else related to ordinary life in Chennai.
The characters are flat - showing the bare minimum of growth. It is almost as if caste is the character that dominates and overwhelms everyone in the book.
To the acidic satire is added a vast amount of scatological humour. Hilarious if you enjoy that kind of thing.
The thin plot veers to a predictable ending. At a frantic pace, the author manages to cut the Brahmin hierarchy down to size. But the sudden appearance of lesbians, missing sons, confessions of illegitimacy and lost but recovered jewelery pushes the novel towards farce.
There is a surprise twist at the end but, for me, it was too late to redeem the book.
Read it if you have to.

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