Fasting Feasting by Anita Desai

Anita Desai is a master of tragedy. She portrays her characters so realistically that you start feeling their pain, their suffering rubs onto you for sometime.

Fasting Feasting is one of the earliest books of the author that I read. It moved me emotionally, pricking a needle in one of the most vulnerable spot- My Heart.

In this novel, she excellently portrays the life of the protagonist- a mentally challenged girl, tied to her parents forever as a yoke, but becoming the most essential part of their lives- a reason for their existence. Their pretended total dependence on her for smallest of the chores, gives an impression that even the most neglected souls do have a role to play in this big theater of life, where each character is important for the true portrayal of storyline.

At first, I found the name of novel  slightly misleading. I did not find anything to feast upon. I cried for three days, remembering the plight suffered by the poor girl, the silent torment her parents must have felt their whole life. However, later, I realized, I was wrong. Catharsis of emotions of any kind, whether of sadness, anger, loneliness or locked up grief, is indeed a feast for the soul.

This novel with tragedy dripping like blood from every word, feeds the soul in a strange way, makes the life more bearable than thousands of jokes could do. Crying is also an essential emotion, we need it to get rid of the vent up anger, dreaded fears and overwhelming sadness. Once you are done with it, you are bound to feel good.

As I read this story to the end, the shift started becoming apparent. The protagonist’s brother goes to America, where he is too lost to experience any pleasure, generally associated with foreign land. However, he finds a landlady who has a family with strange idiosyncrasies. In their oddity, he finds a solidarity, lacking in his own family.

Sometimes feeling someone else’ pain, listening to others’ agony, act as a balm to your own sores. That’s what happens in this book. A great mixture of all the ingredients required for a soul-stirring tragedy that strangely soothes the soul.


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