Anita Desaiís Village by the Sea is set in a small village called Thul, which is 14 kilometres from Bombay.
Lila, the eldest child among four siblings, is but thirteen years of age, yet she already has the outlook and maturity of an adult. Her brother Hari, twelve is the only person with whom she can share her troubles . Their mother is an invalid and needs constant care and nursing. Nobody knows what exactly is wrong with her but she grows weaker and weaker with every passing day. Their father, who has been out of work for months, is in a permanent drunken stupor, from which he arises occasionally to shout at his family.
What with two younger sisters to take care of as well as their mother, life for Lila and Hari is not easy. Their father is most useful when he is away at the local toddy shop, getting drunk. There is a constant need for money as the family is almost always in debt. Then one day, Hari decides heís had just about enough and leaves for Bombay Ė the Bombay where dreams come true and ambitions grow into reality.
Lila is left alone, to manage her sisters Bela and Kamal and her mother and somehow keep the family strings together. Help comes from an unexpected source, the rich DeSilvaís.
Meanwhile, Hari is new in the great city of Bombay, and all alone. A kind restaurant proprietor, Jagu, takes pity on him and welcomes him to work in his restaurant. There, Hari builds a strong friendship with Mr. Panwallah, the lovable watch repairer whose shop is just beside Jaguís.
Set against the backdrop of a typical Indian fishing village, The Village by the Sea will leave a lasting impression on the mind of the reader. Anita Desaiís vivid imagery and appropriate settings and a good plot make this, a book well worth reading.
Anita Desai was born in 1937 in Mussoorie to a German mother and Bengali father. She spent much of her time in Delhi. Desai is among the well known Indian writers in English and is at present in the United States, where she is the John E. Burchard Professor of Writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Her other novels include Fire on the Mountain (1977), which won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, and Clear Light of Day (1980), In Custody (1984) and Fasting, Feasting (1999), each of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. In Custody was made into a film by Merchant Ivory productions. Her children's book The Village by the Sea (1982), won the Guardian Children's Fiction Award.
Excerpt: Hari who had bought neither tea nor fruit at the pier nor food from home in the night, sat very quietly on the floor of the boat and no one paid him any attention at all. There was no one else from Thul in his boat, it was full of strangers from other villages along the coast, and he sat listening to them, feeling very hot and thirsty, and very afraid of the journey he had undertaken without thinking at all, simply because he had been upset and angry and simply could not bear to live another day in Thul in the old way. The time for change had come, he had felt that. He had to make the break he had been thinking about for so long. Had he done wrong?
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