When Parul is only 6 years old, her father, Ahmed, decides to leave her with the Sens, a Hindu family of considerably superior financial means. Parul and her family had become so poor that they were on the brink of starvation. Parul is taken in as a maid, but her status in the wealthy family is discomfortingly ambiguous, a lack of clarity highlighted by her relationship with Mohini Sen. As Parul grows up, Mohini becomes a close friend and a kind of sister but also an object of great envy, a situation sensitively portrayed by Roychowdhury: “How much she tried to belong in Mohini’s world, and how unsuitable and poorly matched she was. ” Moreover, since the Sen family is Hindu, Parul is forced to conceal her Muslim faith. Parul’s estrangement from her own family members, who increasingly treats her as no more than a source of income, exacts a terrible emotional toll on her. She seeks solace in her Muslim spirituality, a clandestine attachment encouraged by her secret boyfriend, Rahim. With impressive nuance, the author chronicles Parul’s growing emotional crisis, one that crescendos with a terrible choice. Rahim, out of an angry, radical rejection of all infidels, asks Parul to commit an act of violence that would count as a betrayal of her host family. Roychowdhury’s prose is deceptively simple and straightforward, but her story is deeply complex — Parul’s life touches on the alienation experienced as a result of religious identity, gender, and socio-economic class. While this is fairly well-traveled literary ground, the author’s treatment has a dramatic authenticity that makes it seem like a fresh rendering rather than the rehash of a formula.



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