The streets of Sompur, India, weren’t for the faint of coronary heart. Slim roads congested by automobiles, vans, rickshaws and livestock made navigation difficult below one of the best of circumstances. To comply with journey below these situations was to really feel as if one had consented to the nation’s historical caste system. It appeared to Meena Kaul that even the roads gave solution to previous India, to hierarchy and custom; and check out as she may, paving the best way for her nation to enter — not to mention embrace — a contemporary India was a process that required extra political stamina than anybody particular person may muster.

Like navigating the roads of Sompur, Meena and people closest to her are about to find that “Indian politics was not solely a harmful sport … however an advanced one,” in Ken Langer’s “A Nest for Lalita” (Dryad Press).

OLD INDIA VS. MODERN INDIA

India, 2005. Behera Home, a middle for girls who’ve survived home violence, is planning to open a brand new campus — a process that proves exceedingly extra complicated for its government director, Meena. On the prime of the record of problems is the HDP — the Hindu Democratic Occasion — which, after the inventory market crash and a lack of funding, has provided a large grant to Behera Home for constructing the Lalita Devi Heart for the Development of Girls. The issue? Members of the HDP help the return to a extra “conventional” India, a transfer that’s, in essence, the antithesis to the development of girls. Meena and her deputy director know that the HDP’s curiosity in funding the brand new campus is a politically advantageous one — attaching their identify to Behera Home’s new challenge provides the HDP the proper alternative to snag girls’s votes earlier than the upcoming nationwide election.

Maybe most regarding is that the HDP’s chief has been traditionally in favor of sati — an historical apply outlawed a century in the past below British rule through which widows threw themselves onto their husbands’ funeral pyres — an act he has described as each ennobling and an vital a part of Hindu tradition. So, it’s no thriller why Meena is loath to take any cash from their group. She is aware of that if elected, the HDP will “destroy no matter progress (India has) made on girls’s rights over the past 100 years.”

CORPORATE GREED AND ‘GREEN’ CLASH

But when the HDP wasn’t sufficient to fret about, Meena’s husband Kesh — an architect and influential member of the India Inexperienced Constructing Affiliation — has been crusading for India to turn out to be extra environmentally pleasant. This presents an issue for Madhav Behera — founding father of Behera Home and Meena’s boss — who owns Himco Air Conditioning. If Kesh is profitable, he’ll lose out to international opponents with extra energy-efficient techniques, and that’s not good for India’s fragile financial system.

Enter Simon Bliss, a world chief in sustainable structure. He turns into invigorated by this new challenge, however the ardour he’s experiencing could have extra to do with the Lalita Devi Heart’s alluring government director than its development. Searching for respite from his stalled marriage, he falls for Meena and instantly turns into engulfed within the dealings of harmful politicians, crooked monks and soiled businessmen. Working with Meena to rid the Lalita Devi Heart from the HDP’s grasp earlier than it opens, Simon finds himself confronting previous ghosts amidst an affair, company greed and now a homicide investigation.

By means of the insanity of Indian politics, the writer’s sense of place shines; however it’s no shock that Langer, who lived in India for over 5 years, would know simply which shades to make use of in rendering his portrait of this historical and vibrant nation. But, it isn’t simply the clogged roads and sacred temples that open the window to India. It’s Langer’s understanding of a shifting tradition — a century of progress at odds with hundreds of years of custom that constructed the very floor on which all his characters stand — that convey his portrait to life.

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