September 04, 2011

Vanished - here to stay!

Vanished by Sheela Chari, is a story about an eleven plus girl growing up in the US and trying to hold on to some of her Indian roots or as her parents suggest assimilate the best that both cultures have to offer.

The 'cursed' Veena, gifted by her grandma from Chennai, makes its way to Neela in Boston , only to be stolen. After some twists and turns, a close call at a train station included, she finds it and what she does reflects unexpected generosity in one so young.

There is intrigue, in chapels and music stores. There is a bit of gyaan on the Veena, a legendary curse and how marketing ploys work. There are well etched characters including friends both Indian and American. The Krishnan family sounds like one you know well. There is a quirky Veena teacher and a secretive classmate.

Without being judgemental, the author Sheela paints a picture of a (pre) teen's life in the US with first gen Indian parents. Her concerns about oiling her hair ( smell like a salad dressing) , her laughing at her mom's ' drishti' (nazar utaarna) ring true.

A scene that completely blew me away was when the usually irritable sister allows her little brother to listen to her play the Veena and he in turn inadvertently helps her get over stage fright, even if in a limited way.

A very interesting and fast read, I felt it would make a good movie. The cover illustration does not do justice to the Veena or the story in my opinion.

Go here for an interview with the author, Sheela by Uma.

".......the Author Notes section of my book, I talk about how in Indian Hindu mythology, the veena is both the instrument of Saraswati, the goddess of learning, as well as Ravana, the arch-villain in The Ramayana (a religious text). Likewise, the wyvern (the dragon that appears in Vanished) is also a symbol of valor and strength in medieval history, as well as one of pestilence and revenge. I didn’t go looking for these qualities. But interestingly, as I dug deeper into my story and did more research, I discovered that these objects “resonated” in unexpected, meaningful ways........"


Sheela just happens to be my SIL's SIL! So I have an autographed copy !! And Neela, the main protagonist, is inspired by our niece, Neela. She plays the veena beautifully now.


Lavs said...

Lucky you. My grandmom had 2 veenas and we gave them away for free after grandpa died and they had to move to a smaller place.

sheela chari said...

Thank you for such a lovely review! I was especially happy to hear your thoughts, since you live in India and have the perspective of someone living there.

Also, I'm glad that we share the same niece -- all the better while reading the book. :)

all my best,