Monday, 23 February 2015

Unravelling Anjali by Nim Gholkar: Book Review


Anjali is like any other middle-class Indian girl raised by the traditional values of India. When she was seventeen, she made a decision that she would only ever marry for true love. 

At last at the age of twenty six, marriage knocks her door and she is married. It was an arranged marriage, to Ravi, a Non Resident Indian, settled in Australia and a divorcee. Her family is happy about getting her married to a NRI and she as well is excited about the life abroad and looks forward to a romantic married life as she lands at the Sydney airport, a few months after their wedding. 

Least did she know then, the fate that awaited her in the new place and how the turn of events would change the traditionally rooted Anjali to an entirely new person. 

The Story

(I usually keep the plot brief in my reviews; but for this one I feel compelled to write more. Please excuse me if I've spilled the beans).

Thus Anjali arrives at the Sydney airport with great hopes and dreams. But it only takes a few days to realize that Ravi is far more addicted to his work and climbing up the ladder of success than she had imagined. His constant attention to office and work confines her to a lonely life. On the other side, she faces difficulty coping up in the new place; she has never worn modern attires back in India; she has never used spoons and fork before; and she finds it hard to have casual communication with the natives as either they do not follow her accented English or she doesn't follow their's and sometimes both. And on yet another side, her curiosity to know about Ravi's first marriage gets curbed by Ravi's sharp remarks which leaves her anxious to find more about it.

As time passes by, however, she gradually adapts to the cultural and social changes she is surrounded by. She makes new acquaintances with Ravi's friends. Fortunately, she bumps into his ex-wife accidentally in whom she finds a warm friend. Almost after a year of their marriage, things seem to be fine except for the absence of an emotional bond with Ravi.

Anjali has always strongly believed in the values of Indian marriages that:

- they are built upon love and trust and
- making compromises to let the relationship live must be worshiped more than letting the vow die on the
   name of living by what the heart says.

On one occasion, she is taken aback when she finds one of her trusted friends flirting with another man despite being blessed with a dedicated husband. 

Ironically, the situations that follow next in her life blow her fate like a thunderstorm, shaking the very values that she had believed in, all along. Enters Jake Ellis into her life. Although the values and dignity of a married woman warn her all the time, she could not help falling in love with this new man in her life. Jake makes her feel loved and comfortable which she had longed for, with ache, from her husband. Though Jake's love gives her the most beautiful feeling that she has always dreamed of, it also pushes her into the most torturous state of mind that any woman would shun off.  

Isn't it a shame for a married woman to like another man regardless of how she is treated in the present relationship? 

Other than being obsessed with work, Ravi really hasn't done a mistake to deserve this betrayal!

And what Anjali chooses finally - save her marriage or follow her heart - is the rest of the story. 

In the process, she unravels herself; from the old-fashioned Indian Anjali to the Anjali of wisdom and courage!


Watch the video trailer of the book


Unravelling Anjali is an emotional tale of a new Indian bride at a foreign land. Narrated brilliantly, the character of Anjali will live in you even after you turn the last page. It was fascinating to read how even the subtle intricacies in a new bride's thoughts is captured realistically in the book.
Anjali writes in her diary about their love-making on the first day of her arrival in Sydney:

:...Should I tell him how much I had been longing to be held and caressed by him, or would that be considered too forward? Would he undress me or should I do it myself? My mind was a jumble of questions." (Page 19)
Expectations and disappointments in the relationship between a husband and a wife is so well realistically portrayed. It is rightly indicated that when their priorities in life are different, marriage remains a constant tug of war.
Anjali writes about her biggest challenge:

".....Ravi is not a 'talker'. Once he gets home, he prefers to unwind by watching the news. He gives me a quizzical look when I say 'let's chat'. 'I don't understand what you mean by "let's chat". If there's something you want to tell me, go ahead'...." ( Page 40)

Personally, I've always looked at extra marital affairs as a crime. But this book has changed my perspective a little. Sometimes, there could be genuine heart-touching stories behind the 'crime'. 
At a time when she gets closer to Jake to an extent that there could be no coming back, Anjali writes:

"....As I began drowning in Jake's eyes, I remembered the old Anjali, the girl I had once been and looked around frantically for her. I needed to find her urgently. She would know what to do. But Anjali was gone. I had left her behind, and come so far that she could never hope to find me. It wasn't Anjali dancing in Jake's arms. It was Angie (Anjali was called Angie by most of her Aussie friends)." (Page 283)
Apart from marital relationships, Anjali also focuses on how her initial opinions about people change over time. I liked that part when the typical Indian mother-in-law turns nice in Anjali's heart towards the end.

The Reader in me says...

For some reason, it was a long read for me. As a reader, I felt the narration got into elaborate details at a few places. And the sudden change in Ravi's attitude after the lose of a dear one felt a little dramatic though it synced well with the plot. But, owing to the first person narration by Anjali, I think it wasn't quite reasonable to expect a dive into Ravi's emotions.

I  must also mention here that it's a light-hearted read. Though the book weighs mostly to the women's side, you will know when you read, that it is certainly not written by a feminist. I would say the book talks about emotions rather than being truly deeply emotional.

If I could meet the author, I would want to ask her why Vibha's man was left unrevealed :) I expected the secret to hit somewhere big towards the end.

Who is it For?

I am sure most Indian brides who have moved to a foreign place, after marriage, will enjoy reading what Anjali goes through in the initial days, as they can relate to the reality in it. The wit with which some of such scenes are described is admirable. Anjali wouldn't open the door to the salesmen sometimes because of the fear to converse with them. One day when she finally picks up courage for a face to face confrontation with a salesman, her fear ends hilariously.

Unravelling Anjali is definitely more than a personal tale. I would recommend this book to all married couples. Especially to men who are addicted to their work life, like the character of Ravi in the book. Not just to warn about the dangers of it to their marriages but also to understand how a wife feels neglected without the attention from her husband. This book will perhaps help a couple to make a check if they are heading the right way and understand what needs to be worked on.

I shouldn't confine the scope of the book to married people. It's all about relationships - that's the take!

My special appreciations to the author for having emphasized the importance of 'saving marriages' throughout the plot. Infidelity being the top most reason for divorces around the world, we certainly do not need literature that would make marriages worse.

Reviewed for the Publisher

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book as a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Title: Unravelling Anjali: Diary of an Immigrant Bride
Author: Nim Gholkar

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