A Little Distillery in Nowgong by Ashok Mathur

By Ashok Mathur

This fantastical ancient novel, narrated via a toddler but to be born, strains the lives of 3 generations of a Parsi kin in India starting within the overdue 1800s. The narrative follows the Khargat relatives from the intricacies of village existence within the jungles of significant India, to the problems of city existence in turbulent pre- and post-independence struggles, to modern diasporic realities within the uk and North the US. This superbly instructed, attractive novel, via the writer of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize finalist the fast, chuffed lifetime of Harry Kumar, humanizes the politics of ethnicity, tradition, and colonial rule.

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Sample text

Yes, that was when I was just a little boy, and he was passing by on his way to work as he was every day, and every evening he would see me under the streetlamp. You see, Mr Khargat, I love to read, always have, and darkness put a real cramp in my reading, so I would go outside and put myself under that streetlamp and read and read and read. And that is where the great Tata saw me and he was impressed, so he told me, and he talked to me on very many occasions, and finally asked to meet my parents, of which I had only one, my father (my mother dying in childbirth so that I never knew her), and he said to my fa- 60 t c J s a o h t o w g d v a o y t a s h ts u s - ” d.

In his left hand he turns a silver anna, a coin dated 1878, the head of Queen Victoria, scratched but clearly noble, on the obverse. Jamshed sits on the beach, feels the warm wind blow off the water, occasionally lifting a spit of ocean spray to dampen his face. His knees are drawn up so his legs form an isosceles triangle with the beach. He leans back, supporting himself with his right hand, squirreled away in the sand. Jamshed looks up at the blue sky, listens to the soft sounds of the ocean, and absently plays with his anna coin.

Well, not really, no, that would be a lie. But given the gravity of the wars that have come before, wars that have intertwined nations and peoples and cultures, wars that have professed to end all wars before or hence, this will be a peaceful time. Prosperity will be in the air, hanging there for all to take in. Whether they do or not, that is another matter. Politics will rise and fall all around me and my parents, and we will breathe those in too, make them part of ourselves, my parent (who is your own offspring) and me (who is your offspring once removed), and your child’s (my parent’s) spouse, all of us, not unhappily.

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