Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Chosen

The Chosen by Usha K.R steers clear of clichés, but manages to stay convincingly relatable and appealing.
Image Source: Rediff
This is another first. Much like the previous review I posted, I had neither read nor even heard about Usha KR.  But I am glad that I gave The Chosen a try. This book is about a young girl, Nagaratna, who is forced to move out of her village after her father’s untimely death. She and her mother join her brother’s family in the city, where she continues her studies and starts working. The events that unfold in her life and her evolution and growth into a worldly-wise woman, without losing her innate qualities pretty much sums up the book.  

The first thing that caught my attention was Usha’s descriptive writing. Although this story is based in Bangalore, it was really not difficult to picture the everyday life and surroundings of Nagaratna. In fact, I could clearly see the crowded and bustling market streets, the busy shops and the lower-middle class dwellings replete with the sights and sounds of such environs. I have shopped in such shops, walked down such streets and visited such dwellings – therefore it was easy to relate to the described life of Nagaratna. Usha’s attention to the minute details is highly evident and she beautifully weaves an interesting tale.

Nagaratna, yearns to go beyond the squalor and mediocrity of her surroundings and the people currently in her life, be it the gossipy neighbourhood women, her ardent admirers or her shallow friends.  In direct contrast to Nagaratna’s upbringing and social standing, is the school where she joins work as admin personnel. An island of tranquility and a sophisticated beauty, it is everything that Nagaratna has longed for. She idolizes the Principal, Miss Pandit. Nagaratna is swept away by the classy and suave Miss. Pandit, who seems to have clever answers and clear solutions for everything. In fact she seems so smitten by the lady, that at times I was almost scared that the story would morph into some lesbian love story. Thankfully it doesn’t. (No offense to lesbians; just that, that was not why I picked up this book.)

Speaking of clichés, I was equally glad that Nagaratna’s sis-in-law is not some kind of stereotypical, selfish shrew who is jealous of her or who quarrels incessantly over petty matters with her mother-in-law. Instead she happens to be a friendly and supportive person, which of course is good. Neither is the mother-in-law a bully and both share a cordial relationship. Also the school is run by a spiritual ashram with all the yoga, dhyanam, holistic healing gyan attached to it. So again I was a tad worried that it is going to turn out to be some kind of “Hare Rame! Hare Krishna” -hippies-who-get-exposed-as-a-sham story. Again, thankfully it wasn’t. There is also a love story thrown in between Nagaratna and the much elder Vasant. Although not exactly a satisfying love story, again I was thankful that there was no sordid details of naïve-girl-taken-advantage-of-by-bad-man-and-got-pregnant kind of stuff.  Grateful to Usha for not putting it such done-to-death and lame digressions.

I am a kind of person who dislikes tragic endings. No matter how much tragedy happens in a story, I would much prefer it, if everyone is happy at the end. The Chosen is not really a tragedy. I would say, maybe it is a realistic story. This is not a fairytale and no one sails into the sunset to live happily ever after. I presume Usha didn't want a cliche in her ending either. So I guess the ending did not totally appeal to the impractical dreamer that I am, but I can quite see the practicality of it.

On the whole, The Chosen was a good read of a young woman who is "torn between who she is and who she wants to be" and I enjoyed it. Will I look out for more of Usha’s books? Sure!



  1. if u enjoyed it then its going on my to-read list.. :) :)

  2. feels like a good book

    can relate to that ...Nagarathna wanting to move away from her current surroundings - the gossipy neighbors & so on.

    i did too. i guess most small town girls do that. come to the city in search of their own identity, broaden the milieu, feel the sky spreading out.

    nice review

  3. Sounds like just the kind of book I feel in the mood for reading :). How was the writing, aside from being descriptive?

  4. @Arpitha: Thanks for the confidence vote!

    @Sujatha: Welcome back! Yes then I guess you would be able to relate to it much more than me...

    @Neeru: Writing is pretty good - not too colloquial and mundane commonly seen in many Indian books nowadays but not extremely high-blown either. Simple but connecting the dots smoothly. It's not a new book though! Published some time back I guess.
    (You know all the descriptions actually took me back to our Amman Koil street - with the temple, the small clothing shop near the bus-stand, the grocery store, the tea shop, the bakery and sweet shop, the noisy flour mill, all the hustle and bustle!)

  5. check this out..
    http://hollaarpitha.blogspot.com/2011/10/another-award-and-another-tag.html :) :)

  6. I am not a book reader really, fiction in particular. I tend to read behavior patterns etc! Anyhow, to answer your questions left on my blog, I wanted to email you but the reply is set to noreply@blogger.com thus, replying here if you do not mind. I do not reply on my blog, I usually reply by email if there is a discussion and carry forward from there...

    Mira was referenced not because she never met her lover or it was a failure. In fact considering it as a failure in itself is a wrong notion. Mira was selfless in her love for her almighty and never questioned what the fate or almighty has decided for her. She accepts it all with a smile. I love her for the immense faith and selfless love.

    It's ok, some like to be Radha, some like to be Mira.

    I know the difference between Madame and Mademoiselle. And I know that the french women do not like that men do not have to disclose their marital status. To me, it's something that will only take the focus away from some serious issues that French Women are facing. Especially, in politics and pay-differences. French women are paid much less compared to men.

    I read the link you shared.

    I would rather support someone who has a genuine cause such as Turlington. She is doing some deed by going out there in the field and helping pregnant women, who have to walk N miles only to deliver a baby. She is fighting for a cause that is close to my heart and hence I respect her and support her.

    Women, who cry out loud for such issues, which are nothing but ego-therapies, from my point of view, I will not support them no matter if every woman on earth plans to participate in slut walk rather than understanding the significance of self-defense.

    Cheers [_]@
    Chintu Singh

  7. @Chintan: Ppl who are just reading this post are going to be thoroughly confused by these comments I guess!

    Anyway I didn't mean that Mira was a failure. You say Selfless. I say that each of us have a responsibility to ourselves, which means that we need to be self concerned. I don't think that that is selfish in any way. Secondly you say she accepts everything with a smile - maybe. But can you be sure that there is no trace of sorrow and sadness behind that smile? Isn't it heartbreaking to keep longing for your loved one? To me it signifies weakness. I don't know why anyone would want to be put in such a situation voluntarily. On that note, I am not a great fan of Radha either (or Sita for that matter). Please note that this sentiment of mine has nothing to do with religion though. It is simply a woman's perspective.

    Reg the feminism thing, when it comes to supporting, I would support both. After all God knows that we need all the support that can come by :-)

  8. Oh good! If the writing evokes such memories, then it's surely worth reading :).

  9. When it comes to descriptive writing you are no less.There are description
    of many varieties like places ,situations,feelings, and causes.Do you have any particular choice

  10. Now it has to be on my to-read list! Thanks for the review :)

  11. @Maama: I am flattered :-)
    I like descriptions which trigger some long-forgotten memories by helping me re-imagine them in my mind's eye. I think that's what helps me relate to a book.

    @Kiran: Do give it a shot!

  12. Oh wow. Can't wait to read that book. More than the book, I think I like your review more :) You should write a book Anne, and remember who you should mention :P


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