13 April 2013

The Mistress of Spices: Misty... fragrant... intoxicating.. mythical... spicy!!

I have read almost all books of Chitra Banerjee and each read makes me crave for more.. her intriguing characters, colorful stories are like bites from your favorite dish eating one bite at a time to savor the taste hoping it to last forever.. holding the book close wishing it never ends.. The best part about her books are the interesting character sketches.. generally a character has shades of black or white or a mixed grey.. but Chitra's characters have all vibrant shades of red, blue, yellow, green, purple, mustard, plum, brown and others seen or unseen but only felt.

The Mistress of spices with the essence of India through her mystical approach keeps you intoxicated through the book..her beautiful & delicate description of the spices makes you think that eachof them has a breathing & feeling life in them.. a power to drive people... and run lives.. They control our emotions & lead us to our inner self like nothing else does....She breathes life into anything she describes, the store of spices, the shelves which hold spices, the bags which carry them & finally the most simple looking but magnanimous spices... I always knew that Indian spices are the essence of our cooking but she weaves it as part of an Indian's life & soul.. which makes them more interesting.. The way she describes..

'Haldi like the dust from a butterfly's wing' or 'Slice ginger translucent-thin like the curtain between the waking and the dream'

Just beautiful lines describing and infusing soul in spices.. and Tilo also called Maya or Nayantara lives up to her character of a mistress of spices with all their power but still as vulnerable woman to human weaknesses of love and lust.. Chitra brings a mysticism to her female characters like a true Indian women, loving and sacrificing as wives, mothers, daughters, but at the same time strong personalities to live life on their own terms and stand up against the world when time comes..

But there was one catch in the book and that was the relationship between Raven & Tilo.. who were two powerful individuals in their own stead but were drawn against each other for reasons of being Indian or American, or being handsome or beautiful.. or because of the powers they had or could have.. there was something missing in their relationship -something which was more of an infatuation than love.. her desire to look most beautiful woman for him and for him to accept her for her mystical powers than anything else.. I just couldn't figure it out or feel the emotions in it.. Though I loved the way Chitra portrayed it as the first emotions one feels in the first few days of infatuation, the small touches, the harmless flirting, the hidden desires, the words unsaid.. I just love them and I guess every woman would..

Earlier I was a little averse to the book because I had seen the movie and somehow I thought I would only picture Aishwarya as the mistress. I believe Aishwarya though beautiful is a wrong choice to play the actress in Chitra’s books. She is pretty in an obvious way... international looks lacking the touch of natural Indian beauty - redness of the cheeks like lal mirch (red chilies), pale brownish-yellow skin of Haldi, hair smelling of the Amla, the blackness of eyes like the kaali mirch (peppercorn) and the dusky mystic body smelling of spices..

So don't read for the movie.. read it for Chitra.. another of her beautiful mythical creations. I wish I could learn the way she creates & describes her characters.. I just wish..


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