Monday, August 17, 2015

Our Inheritance

It's a very nice break from social media. Even with plenty of wifi and VPN, I resolutely refuse to check in on facebook or instagram, and only occasionally scan twitter. Reading too many news updates makes me angry. I write, I blog, other then that, I've been quite blissfully unperturbed with keeping abreast of what's happening in the world. But I have plenty of time to read.

Finally got around to Balli Kaur Jaswal's 'Inheritance' that's been sitting in the e-pile for ages. Totally forgot about it till olduvai mentioned it. Downloaded that last year when notabilia re-read and reviewed it. notabilia also recently interviewed the author in an article on Set in Singapore between the 70s to 90s, the story follows teenager Amrit Kaur's story and her brothers' lives (Narain and Gurdev) through two decades, as well as her father's (Harbeer). Then there're her nieces SimranKiran and Rani. There's an illness in the family, sexuality and homosexuality, the pressure to perform well in competitive Singapore, etc. The book details the fundamental beliefs of her traditional Punjabi-Sikh family and how those affect and influence the young's life choices, and second chances for the adults. (More information here, here, and here.)

This novel spans two decades post-independence. Well. How can we forget that Singapore is only 50 years young. Dunno if this is a good time to read it, this being SG50, all that imminent election buzz and a bit of angst about our social policies of which many I heartily disagree with. Anyway.

Amrit's family. Her siblings' stories, and her father's (and relatives, and the community) judgmental eye are real-life-stories many Singaporeans are familiar with. Or should I say, many Asian families, across ethnic groups and diaspora. The pressures the children face from their parents tell of a similar pain and happiness. Well-paced and real, the author captured all growing pains and complex familial relationships amidst a changing society and world-at-large. It was relevant in those times and particularly poignant now.

Kiran's suggestion about Rani echoed in Gurdev's mind. He was aware that Kiran was staring at him, waiting for a response. 
'In my time there was no need to go searching for the roots to every problem,' Gurdev said as they entered a multi-storey car park. 'If you didn't do well in school, you were lazy or just not very bright. If you misbehaved and broke the rules, you were rebellious ad foolish. Nowadays everybody wants to blame some underlying issue.' 
He pulled the car into a vacant lot and unbuckled his seatbelt. Kiran made no move to do the same. She was still peering at him and when he turned his head, their eyes locked. Very gently, she spoke, 'It's not your time anymore.'

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