Biography, Religion, Reviews

A groovy pad in Bombay

jacket imageWilliam Grimes reviewed Kirin Narayan’s memoir of growing up in India, My Family and Other Saints, in yesterday’s New York Times:

Families can be so embarrassing. Imagine the agonies of an adolescent girl whose house has become infested with India-besotted hippies from all over the globe, whose sarcastic father stumbles around in an alcoholic haze and whose mother kneels at the feet of every swami she meets. And let us not forget grandma, who holds long conversations with her cow and once met a 1,000-year-old cobra with a ruby in its forehead and a mustache on its albino face.

Gods, gurus and eccentric relatives compete for primacy in Kirin Narayan’s enchanting memoir of her childhood in Bombay (present-day Mumbai). The title, which alludes to Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, originated as an act of revenge. Ms. Narayan, fed up with the family penchant for ashrams and spiritual quests, turned to her mother and warned, “When I grow up I’m going to write a book called My Family and Other Saints and put you in it.” And so she did.

Narayan’s memoir captures a time and place when nearly everyone, it seemed, was embarked on some sort of spiritual quest. And a family full of love, yet always on the verge of disintegration.
Read an excerpt from the book.