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Reminiscing nostalgic memories that are not yours!

Taking a walk down memory lane…

How a novel can make you reminisce nostalgic memories that are not yours!

Ever read a book and found yourself mesmerized by the relatable characters, spectacular scenery, and poignant writing? The Middle by Nayana Goradia did just that for me, albeit it is an autobiography. The collection of short stories featured in the book is extracted from articles published in various mediums.

Threads of nostalgia

The witty writing combined with a dash of humour and sarcasm makes the story a joy to read. It spins a tale of love and life - transitioning between threads of childhood, foreign visits, marriage, motherhood, and independence. One can notice the growth of the author through the pages from her childhood and schooling up to her experiences as a mother of two.

The author has created a sense of nostalgia with the stories married to the black and white pictures adorning the smooth pages. They are featured on the front cover as well which gives the book a vintage look. It is a collection of travel, culture, and real stories of real people spun humorously.

The author as a child

A few of the most intriguing pieces dated back to when the author was a child. She was just starting school at Colombo and wished to mingle with the other students. Her father, on the other hand, wanted her to respect and uphold their Indian traditions without embarrassment. This led to many fights between them as the author had to wear a traditional pavada to their functions along with bangles and a bindi.

Picture : Ceylon Diaries

It was interesting to watch the ways Nayana used to wipe off the bindi and take off the bangles when she was at school. Even during school events, the family would bring Indian sweets and snacks to be distributed at the stalls. Despite understanding the traditions and values upheld by the family, readers will realize that had they been the age of the author, they would have behaved the same way. The embarrassment and resentment felt by the author are beautifully captured in the stories and are thought-provoking to read.

“Somehow my father got an inkling of my defiance. My mother was told to keep a watch on me when I returned home. The bangles would be back in place but the bindi proved a problem. There were no sticker bindis available and I was caught out. I was administered a strict warning.”

Historical references

There are quite a few historical references in the book as well as moments when the author met Lord Curzon's descendants and other personalities. She has described in detail the culture of the Chinese and Sri Lankans to help us understand their traditions. Be it their unique ways of showing respect to elders or their intriguing practices and beliefs of marriage, she has described the events in an interested yet simple manner. She has also described the partition of Bengal and the creation of Pakistan along with our freedom struggle.

Despite these being well-known stories, the author ensured that the narration was interesting and interlaced with her opinions and experiences. At no point did it feel like a history textbook with just dates and chronological facts on the page. She has also described the position of the Jews and the scenario of Cochin and Israel. It is noteworthy to read the pieces as they are the author’s first-hand observations during the time.

“Twenty-five years ago there were some 1,500 Jews in and around Cochin. Today only 300 remain of whom 87 live in Cochin itself. The birth of Israel has drawn more and more of them to their old home. They migrate not because they are loved less in Cochin but because they love their Holy Land more.”

Moments of adulthood

The story has some excerpts from the author’s husband’s book - Fly Me to the Moon - as well. It is interesting to receive his perspective and view the author’s life from his perspective.

Picture : The happy couple

The stories that narrate their adventures together are indeed beautiful and comical. There are some scenes in the book where the author has married and is managing life with two children.

She talks about mundane everyday affairs in an immersive manner - even the most basic stories like her child preparing her school project. It is a story wherein her older daughter has to prepare a chart for her school project amidst a power cut. It brought nostalgia and immense relatability to read how the whole family came together and did their part to make it a success.

“It means ransacking the attic for the suitcase containing newspaper cuttings and picture postcards for possible illustrations. It means bringing the household to a grinding halt as servants are sent off to get chart paper, gum, colour pencils, cellophane, gold trimming and other such items of embellishment. The notion that parenthood is a shared joy proves untrue at times like this.”

Who should pick up this book?

This novel is a delight for lovers of autobiographies and culture. If you love reading stories of travel, tradition, comical narratives, and sarcastic descriptions of mundane events - then this book will be a treat for you! On the other hand, if you are just entering the world of non-fiction and autobiographies, you are sure to enjoy this book owing to how short the chapters are. The storyline is engaging and the images and comics make it all the more enjoyable.

The Middle by Nayana Goradia is now available on Amazon. Do add it to your stack of bedside table books to embark on a journey of love and laughter!

- Team Booknerds

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