Title: Gods and Ends
Author: Lindsay Pereira
Publisher: Penguin Vintage,
This is a book which presents characters taken from
real life. You will think, as you read the novel, that you know this character
and this and this too. Only the names sound different, even exotic: Vaz, D’Souza,
Sequeira, and so on. All the characters are Goan Catholics living in Orlem,
Mumbai. All the major characters are tenants of Obrigado Mansion, a rundown
building belonging to aged Francisco Fernandez who lives with his
daughter-in-law, occupying two of the rooms in the mansion. All other rooms are
occupied by families that are grappling with quite a few problems.
There are five families plus one
widow who lives alone in one of the rooms. Each one of these characters catches
our attention with their unique earthiness. The Sequeira family in Room 108, for
example, is headed by Jude Sequeira who is little more than an alcoholic. He
has a job in a factory. But since his education hadn’t gone beyond school, he
remains on the lower rungs in the factory’s hierarchy and it does add to his
frustrations a lot. Once he got a kind of promotion by grabbing the supervisor
by his balls and making an emphatic demand. Brigette, his wife, had lost
interest in him soon after their marriage. Their first love-making was a brutal
rape. Jude seeks to dump his lust on his pubescent daughter, Philomena, whose
obesity makes her a butt of many a joke at school.
Peter Vaz lost his job in Kuwait
following the Gulf War. He is back in Room 103 with his wife Gracie and son
Gavin. Unlike Brigette and Philo, Gracie and Gavin refuse to accept Peter’s
drunkenness and crudeness. They leave him for good. And thus save themselves.
Peter stays on in Obrigado Mansion watching the people of Orlem go by while he
is sipping London Pilsner beer. His favourite pastime is watching pornography.
Gilbert D’Souza and his wife Angelina
of Room 104 charm us with their version of religion. Since they couldn’t beget children,
they had nothing to do with their time and hence took to evangelism. They
preached Bible to whoever cared to listen until Gilbert discovered another kind
of paradise in the bed of widow Joeann. Unable to endure the insult of such
blatant infidelity, Angelina returned to her mother who was living in a
one-bedroom apartment with her son and his family. Angelina is an unwanted
burden in the overpopulated house where she had been born and brought up. The
Bible tells her: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to
the Lord” [St Paul’s letter to Ephesians, 5:22]. So, like a devout Christian,
Angelina returns to her husband who continues to savour his paradise in Joeann’s
Michelle D’Costa is a 23-year-old student
who falls in love with a Hindu classmate. Her parents of Room 107 are extremely
concerned about her soul which will be doomed if she marries a non-Catholic.
What about her children? They too will be damned. Even Father Lawrence
Gonsalves, parish priest, is concerned. In addition, the young priest
implicitly offers to defrock himself if Michelle is willing to leave the Hindu
boy and marry him instead. But the miscegenation is destined and Father
Gonsalves’s vocation is saved.
All these and other characters of the
novel are taken from the real life we all live whether in Mumbai or Kerala or
anywhere in this fabulous country called India. The author has succeeded in
presenting these characters in unforgettable ways. All of them remain in our
minds for a long time after we put the book down. And the book is quite
unputdownable. Not because of any suspense or mystery though a bit of that is
there too especially with Room 106 which is supposedly haunted.
I enjoyed reading this book so much
so I finished reading it in a single day. I was amused, amazed and moved. Hats
off to the author whose debut work is indeed verry promising.