The memoir, and then there were three..., is a slim book, a breathtaking look at a childhood in a diverse, changing India by Supriya Bhatnagar. "Three" refers to the family loss of her beloved father when Supriya was nine and her mother moves the two daughters from Bombay to Jaipur: "Even though Jaipur was a metropolis where streets had been paved, the city retained the inherent quality of the earth it lay upon."
Indian culture is deftly expressed by funerals, tea, shopping, street cleaners, and details such as her grandmother's hair: "This had been her hairstyle since the time she got married; it was just that the chignon was the size of a grapefruit when she got married, and the size of a walnut by the time she died." Supriya experiences the blackouts of the 1971 war with Pakistan, the heat and cold of India, and learns the significance of skin color. The haunting memoir includes universal types such as nosey neighbors, lecherous storekeepers—and what it was to be Hindu: "Customs and traditions become ingrained in us to such an extent that to this day I follow this restriction [not entering the temple during her time of the month] without questioning its logic."
The author does not have an arranged marriage but after a long traditional courtship marries Anil who lives on the next street: "I loved the smell of Old Spice, his after-shave, and it was a familiar and strangely comforting smell as Daddy had used it everyday." She concludes that the loss of her 39-year-old white-collar worker father from heart attack made her grow up sooner.
The book reminded me of God of Small Things by the award-winning Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, with its insight into human nature, the portrayal of the enduring complexities of India, its touches of humor, and life through a child's eyes. I enjoyed the author's sharing her wide reading and deep appreciation of the classics growing up and concluded that her well-educated parents must have influenced her becoming the Director of Publications for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs headquartered in Virginia. This organization supports writers and writing programs around the world.
Supriya Bhatnagar is the Director of Publications for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Her MFA in Nonfiction is from George Mason University. She has published a short story in Femina, a leading English magazine in India and has appeared in various literary magazines in the United States.
Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org. Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at storycirclebookreviews.org) with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.