Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Hindi-Bindi Club

Title: The Hindi-Bindi Club
Author: Monica Pradhan
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 431
Edition: Hardcover

I am not a big fan of chick-lit novels, but after reading 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', I had to go look for one. I needed it like some sort of a breather. And 'The Hindi-Bindi Club' perfectly fitted the bill. Immigrant stories always intrigue me and one that has mouth-watering recipes sprinkled all over was something equivalent to a double-chocolate delight waiting to devoured.

Kiran Deshpande, a 32-year-old doctor, is a headstrong valiant girl, heart-broken from a divorce with a rock-star musician. Her home-coming for the holidays, after nearly 5 years, makes her rather nervous as she is about to confront her parents with her struggles from the past. Will she be able to reconcile the differences she had with her father, Yash, as he never consented her previous marriage? Will she find the strength in her to cope with the shocking truth her mother, Meenal Deshpande, is about to reveal? Is the arranged marriage, an idea she once scoffed at, the righteous choice after her past failure?

Preity Chawla, happily married and mother of two children, enjoys a picture perfect life. Atleast, that's what everyone thinks. She torments herself with a love affair she was forced to let go by her mother. She feels disheartened as her mother, Saroj Chawla, fails to acknowledge her feelings and encourages her to move on. Will Preity reconcile her differences with Saroj?

Rani Tomashot, daughter of Uma, abandoned her career as a rocket scientist to become an artist. Even after a successful solo exhibit, she suffers from bouts of depression and feels apprehensive about her future as an artist. Will Rani be able to fight the inner demons that threaten to engulf her?

Meenal, Saroj and Uma, members of the 'Hindi-Bindi Club' (nick-name given by their daughters), have compelling stories of their own. Meenal fights long and hard to make the relationship between Kiran and Yash work. And she is yet to reveal to Kiran an agonizing experience she recently underwent. Saroj harbours a secret that could prossibly wreck her marriage and struggles to come to grips with her past. Uma, wife of an Irish-American, started her life fresh in a foreign soil. Her marriage was never approved by her family and her obstinate dad forbids her from visiting her home country ever again. She never settled scores with her father before leaving the country and now that he is dead, it haunts her forever.

As the author, Monica Pradhan, adeptly juggles the intertwining lives of her fictional characters, she beautifully brings out the emotional struggle between mothers and daughters. Her writing style is so evocative that she makes you empathize with her characters. There is enough meat in this book that it may not be a bad idea after all to weave a Bollywood movie out of it. The traditional Indian recipes affixed to the end of each chapter adds an elegant touch to the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

What better way to end the review than posting my favorite recipe from the book?

Coconut Custard Cake (Bebinca)
Serves: 6 - 8

2 cups coconut milk
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup rice flour
10 egg yolks lightly beaten
3/4 cup melted ghee
3 tspn toasted almond slices
1/2 tspn salt
1/4 tspn ground cardamom
1/4 tspn ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F
2. In a small saucepan over very low heat, combine coconut milk and brown sugar stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, salt, cardamom & nutmeg.
4. Stir in coconut milk mixture to dry ingredients, then add egg yolks. Mix until smooth neither too dry nor too runny. Add a little water if too dry or a little flour if too thin.
5. Grease a deep 7 inch round aluminum pan with 2 tbsp ghee.
6. Pour 1 cup of batter into pre-greased pan. Set on middle rack of oven. Bake until top turns golden. Remove from oven. Pour 1 tbsp ghee over top layer. Using spatula, remove pancake and stack on plate.
7. Repeat step 6 until all batter is finished. stack all pancakes in a pan and bake 15 minutes.
8. Cool to room temperature. Turn pan upside down onto plate. Gently extract Bebinca so the shape stays intact.
9. Garnish with toasted almond slices. Serve at room temperature.


karmic said...

Thank you for the review, I loved reading about it. Chick lit or not I think I might want to read it.

That coconut custard cake does look yummy!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Chitts!

Monica Pradhan was at the South-Asian literary festival that I attended in Chicago in April. She did a couple of readings and from what I could see her book interested quite a few of the participants. I certainly look forward to reading it especially now that I've read your review.

I love Bebinca, every time someone travels to Goa, I beg them to bring me some. I have heard it can be quite laborious to make however.

Dewey said...

Wow, that cake looks incredibly rich.

I see in your sidebar that you hike! Me, too, nearly every day. :)

Literary Feline said...

I enjoyed this one too. I think the cultural aspects of the book was what drew me in most of all. That and the history. Great review!

Radha said...

I LOVE bebinca; my mum used to cook it sometimes when we were kids. And now I've almost forgotten the taste!!
It so reminds me of dear old Goa :))

Happy Reader said...

@Sanjay ~ Thanks! Well, give it a try..You may never know..
@Lotus ~ I remember reading about the literary festival on your blog when I picked up this book and it turned out to be quite an interesting read. I agree Bebinca is a bit laborious, but now that I my mom is here, I'm going to ask her to make it as often as I like ;)
@dewey - Yes, indeed :) Wow, Are you a hiker too? How exciting? May be we could share some of our hiking stories ;) Climbing Mt.Tallac and Mt.Lassen are some of my unforgettable hiking adventures and I look forward to doing more :)
@literaryfeline ~ Thanks! I agree.Pradhan's focus on Indian tradition & culture made it more interesting and the chapter on the partition of India was touching.
@radha ~ It turned out to be my favorite too :)