As They Never Were

by Pallavi Gopinath Aney

Novel / Crime, Drama, Literary fiction

This is just a story about the lives of three generations of Indian women, affected by the times they live in and the men around them. Chitra is a woman uprooted from the state she grew up in and moved by her husband to Delhi, a place alien to, and loathed by, her. Before there was immigration to foreign shores, hers was the kind of cross-country economic immigration so many women dealt with, travelling across the lines of language and food. Her daughters, Shuchi and Yamini, grow up with the knowledge of her sadness for her lost roots and the toll this takes on their parents’ marriage. Ultimately, the respectable, upper middle class life they build for themselves is touched by the fragility of one daughter – the effort to conceal weakness and the damage it does affects the lives of her parents, her husband, her sister and ultimately, her daughter, Tara.

The crux of the story is the destruction of the vulnerable by the pressures to conform to certain understood norms of respectability. When they fail, as they inevitably do, they are hidden away, lest the stigma associated with their behavior taint a family obsessed with fitting in. Ultimately, it is a glimpse into a life wasted and other lives lived unhappily.

The story is set in India, both north (where I grew up) and south (where my family is originally from). However, having lived in Singapore for nearly 10 years, I now realize it could equally apply to middle class life in almost any Asian country.

I hope you enjoy this story.