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Growing out and away from tradition

Monday, September 19, 2011

 The House with Five Courtyards by Govind Mishra, translated from Hindi by Masooma Ali, oversees the gradual falling apart of a large joint family even as Badi Amma, the matriarch of the family, struggles to keep it together. The story, circa 1940, spans three generations of family of brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles, living in a sprawling mansion in Benares, vast enough to contain five courtyards. The main characters in the story are eldest son, Radheylal, an advocate involved in the Indian freedom movement, Badi Amma (Jogeshwari), and an old banyan tree affectionately revered as Badh Baba.  There are musical soirees organized by a courtesan, Kamlabai, who visits the house and is welcomed without discrimination. 

When Radheylal goes underground and then passes away, the younger brother demands separation of the property. Badi Amma’s grandchildren leave the house to settle in other towns, leading to ‘the collapse of her perfect world’.  The house that held steadfast, is finally taking in tenants on rent.

Penguin Books India
Price Rs.299
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