This is going to be my first read for the South Asian 2012 challenge. This is Shilpa Agarwal's debut novel and it is almost a ghost story. Not my favourite genre at all, but I do like to read Indian authors and have had such good books from them that invariably if I do see something new I will pick it up irrespective of the fact that I have not seen a review or even heard of the book.
The book starts ordinarily enough. Pinky Mittal lives with her grandmother after she lost her mother in the Indo Pakistan partition. Along with the matriarch of the family Maji lives his son and wife and their three sons. Shortly after Pinky joined the household much against Savita (the aunt's wishes) she loses her infant daughter and a domestic is charged with negligence for this child's death.
Pinky loves her grandmother dearly and has a growing adolescent crush on her cousin Nimesh who is attracted to the girl next door. The family is affluent, no shortage of any kind and the descriptiveness of living in an extended family is very beautifully told. Of special interest to those who have not experienced this kind of living - the pretentious manner in which it must be maintained that everyone gets on with everyone else whereas there are tensions seething underneath it all are almost a story in itself.
However the main gist of the story is the ghost of the long lost baby who has gradually taken over the household starting with Pinky and then gradually affecting the whole family. The spirits are not benign ones but vengeful ones which seek to get revenge from those who have not appeased them or looked after them in the afterlife very well.
Agarwal's attention to detail - specially of the environs of Bombay not just the residential, elite areas but also the slums, her vivid details regarding the role that religion plays in the daily life of its people, and this family are very well told. This was a good start for my South Asian Challenge 2012.