Hillstation, by Robin Mukherjee (General Fiction)
Smart, funny, thought-provoking, entertaining — I found Hillstation by Robin Mukherjee to be a delightful treat that kept me chuckling and made me sorry to see it end.
The main character and narrator, Rabindra, is a young man of twenty-two who has never left Pushkara, the remote mountain town in India where he was born. As the second son in an upper-class Brahmin family, he is constantly being compared — unfavorably — to his older brother who has been to England and is now the village doctor. To make matters worse, Rabindra’s best friend, Pol, is a low-born in the Indian caste system, making him forbidden company for a Brahmin and an added source of irritation to Rabindra’s father. Both Rabindra and Pol long to leave Pushkara, their goal being to marry English brides and move to England. When an itinerant troupe of British entertainers end up in Pushkara by mistake, Rabindra and Pol believe the young female dancers have been sent by the gods in answer to their prayers. The confusion this creates for all concerned makes for a very entertaining story.
As a fan of Sonny in the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” I especially enjoyed the main characters’ flowery Indian-English speech patterns characterized by unnecessarily complex, and often humorous, sentence structures. As Rabindra himself explains to the newly arrived British girl of his dreams, “For your information, our prodigious facility in the English patois is consequent upon historical circumstances. Several generations ago, there came to reside among these fragrant peaks a gentleman in receipt of an education from a most illustrious establishment, far away from here, in which English was the prescribed means of linguistic intercourse. Being of a pedagogic inclination, he established our first school…” and so on. To which she replies, looking at her travel companion, “I thought you said they spoke English.”
The story has its unexpected twists and turns, the tongue-in-cheek humor is consistent throughout, and the characters are well-developed and fun. The book provides a glimpse of life in a remote Indian village and offers the opportunity to reflect on what might happen if one attempts to transcend one’s limitations.
Grandma gives Hillstation five stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews received a copy of Hillstation from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.