When I received this book for review, I was overwhelmed. If you observe my blog posts closely you will notice that of the books that I have reviewed, 2 are authored by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. No other author features more than once, not yet. Now, that’s saying something. To be honest, I experienced a very real ‘fan moment’ at the time - To think that I was considered worthy enough to review her work! Wow! Was this really happening to me and so on and so forth. It has therefore, taken me a while to gather my thoughts and put them to paper, to let the emotion wash away a little so that I can give you a coherent take on the book.
‘Before We Visit The Goddess’ is a novel about the lives of 3 women with differing personalities and ambitions but with one very strong bond that ties them all, that of family. Sabitri, Bela and Tara. Grandmother, Mother and Daughter.
My initial feeling when reading the book was akin to being in a time capsule rocketing from the 1940s to 1990s and through this journey I gained insight into the lives of these women at different stages of their lives. Their everyday struggles, their fierce ambitions, their tryst with love and a desire to succeed. The characters are very real and towards the end of the book I felt like I knew them all along!
I have very faint memories of Kolkata but Divakaruni’s writing rekindled my hazy memories of the city’s sights and smells. The descriptions of the traditional Bengali sweets is so tempting that I almost popped into my local grocery store (run by Bangladeshis) to see if I could lay my hands on rasgulla and mishit doi. But then, I was drawn back into the mystical prose and engaging storyline of Divakaruni’s book. So the sweets had to wait for another day.
Divakaruni masterfully explores the meaning of what it is to be an Indian woman across various decades and she does this through the experiences of each of her 3 characters. Human strengths and weaknesses are demonstrated with equal finesse and the reader who is not conversant with Indian culture is enlightened with snippets about its customs and traditions. A reference made to society in Kolkata appealed to me perhaps because it is not specific to Kolkata alone– “But in Kolkata, it’s always possible to learn someone’s history if you want it badly enough”.
The reader is also given insight into West Bengal’s political fabric, especially the influence of the Naxalites on the life of Kolkata’s youth.
Divakaruni’s writing as always, is spellbinding. The manner in which the words synergise is soothing to the soul. Consider this sentence as an example; “Ebb and flow, ebb and flow, our lives. Is that why we’re fascinated by the steadfastness of stars?”. Did I just hear you sigh? I will let you reflect and it take it all in, word by word….