Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
It is tough to classify Veena Nagpal’s new book, The Indian Café in London (published in India by EEP), into a genre. Is it a cookbook, a travel book, a suspense thriller or a relationship tale? Well, it is all these rolled into one, and much, much more. A tale of love and loss, relationships across several generations, lost identities and aspirations of young ones that hit the blind walls of their parents’ approval, An Indian Café in London, is her fifth novel that is equally enchanting as the four previous ones.
This book can easily give you a feeling of it being a memoir, but it is not. The fact that one of her characters is a war hero (veena is a Defence kid), and the book talks about age-old recipes and culinary trivia (showing her love for cooking) can make you think so, but it is precisely here that the similarities end.
A work of fiction that amply shows her skill with words, the book is actually Veena’s labour of love and imagination, though the places and locations being written about are real.
The author sure has a way with etching out the details of her characters, each of who seems very real and tugs at your heart, be it the bold and strong-minded but commitment-phobic young Jamila, the wannabe chef Akhil who is dying to make a name for himself in the culinary world or his war hero father Maj Gen Robert Khanna. Deft with words, the author has opened up each character bit by bit, through their personal memories of foods and recipes; their dreams and aspirations, successes and failures, which keeps a reader’s interest element growing. You keep turning the pages to know more, and more about each character, and you are not disappointed. Till the time you hit the last chapter, that is! The story has ended, you realise. But you never wanted it to end… That’s what good writers do!
Since the book talks about food and love, it has plenty of walks through the bazaars which make an interesting read. But, one thing that I especially loved is the Culinary Musings, Trivia and Recipes at the end of each chapter – these facts in this fiction is something that increase your knowledge-base and recipes you can indulge in and keep for posterity.
Altogether an enjoyable read.