Summary and Story:
An open book or an enigma? Surrounded by a riot of flowers, Neena Aunty is very much like her overgrown garden – unleashed, free-spirited, and spontaneous. Popular among the youngsters in the family. And the bane of existence of her siblings.
Neena Aunty by Anukrti Upadhyay revolves around the life of the titular character, Neena Aunty. An unapologetic woman, one who refuses to be tied down by the rules and regulations of society. A woman who charts her own destiny. She is that favorite aunt we all would love to have. Following multiple timelines, her niece Sudeepa (the narrator) tries to demystify her aunt through conversations with her mother and aunts. And some reminisces from her childhood.
One of my bookish resolutions for 2021 is to read more books in Hindi. It has been a good year where I have rediscovered old favorites (Toba Tek Singh and Mitron Marjani) and checked out recommendations (Dopehri). When Blogchatter offered Neena Aunty for review via their book review program, I was quite eager to pick it up. I have previously read Kintsugi and Bhaunri by the author and enjoyed them.
A book in Hindi should probably be reviewed in Hindi too. But I am not quite confident in my writing skills. Some day perhaps. I also want to introduce (and re-introduce) English book readers to Hindi literature via my blog. It breaks my heart to see translated pop-culture books considered the best ones in Hindi when there are such excellent books out there.
मन की करना आसान नहीं, मन का करने से पहले अपना मन जानना जरूरी है।
(It is not easy to follow your heart. First, you need to know what the heart truly desires)
The writing style of the book is conversational. The language is simple and easy to understand. A language you and I converse in daily. It feels as if you are a fly on the wall during a chat session in the family. There are laugh-out-loud moments and also those that make you introspect. There are a number of life lessons peppered in that do not sound preachy. The charm of the book is the simplicity of writing. No purple prose that generally takes away from the narration.
Although the book is primarily about Neena Aunty, there are numerous other characters. Characters that are well-etched and relatable. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, and lovers. It could get confusing, but the author manages to tie it all together. The book is also well-paced. It is a short book of just 112 pages and can be finished in one sitting.
किसी एक के भूल जाने या नकारने से तुम्हारी याद झूठी नहीं पड़ जाती।
(Your memories are not a lie just because someone does not remember or negates them)
I did find the liberal use of English words (written in Roman English) quite jarring at first. Perhaps because I have been reading literary fiction lately. But that did beg a question. I am quite okay with colloquial words in English books, so why not the other way around? Purist much? Once I was able to get past that, it was quite an enjoyable read.
The book raises some age-old questions. Why are women who chart their own way considered trouble? Why is a single independent woman considered a bad influence? It is also a reflection of patriarchy. The father, a reputed lawyer, was more into saving face and disowned his daughter. The siblings were more embarrassed by their sister than taking pride in her achievements.
I enjoyed reading the book. If you like reading in Hindi or are looking to explore them with a light pick, I recommend you pick up the book. A character and a book that stays with you long after you finish reading.An open book or an enigma? Neena Aunty by Anukrti Upadhyay #BookReview @anukrti_U @blogchatter #BookChatter #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet
This review has been written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. I was offered the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
About the author
Anukrti Upadhyay has post-graduate degrees in Management and Literature, and a graduate degree in Law. She writes in both English and Hindi. She stunned readers and critics alike with the twin novellas Daura and Bhaunri in 2019, and delighted Hindi readers with short story collection Japani Sarai.