A coming of age book : The Tribune India

Children’s book Bena’s Summer is a trip down memory lane for those of who grew up in the 1980s and 90s as it is high on nostalgia for what were simpler times, happier times.

It could possibly be called a coming of age book, but really isn’t. This is the story of the four odd weeks that Benazir, Bena to friends and family, spent in mofussil India, visiting her grandparents.


Bena’s Summer

 Author: Dr. Shibal Bhartiya

Pages: 247

Price: Rs 239

Publisher: HarperCollins

The narrative is set in Gaya and Sultanpur, two small towns in the Hindi heartland, but it really could have been anywhere.

Bena is the typical eight-year-old: fun loving, bright, and eager to please. She revels in the love and attention, and is perhaps the happiest child you know, fond of jalebis, limericks and raw mangoes.

However, what sets her story apart is the traditional upper-middle class Muslim ethos, partly unfamiliar to the protagonist as well, growing up as she is, away from it all.

It’s an idyllic childhood: protected, loved, and edged with rainbow-gold. A faintly old- world sepia frame, seen from the eyes of a child: ghararas, and Eid and warqi parathas and old Ambassador cars with frilly curtains in the windows.

Over her four weeks with the extended family, Bena also has to come to terms with the dark underbelly of the halcyon days, part of which she understands, but most of which is beyond her grasp.

While in Gaya, Bena is exposed to the horrors of abuse, and her parents hurriedly take her away to Sultanpur. There, she is witness to communal riots, death, and destruction, in a setting that explains little, and expects children to forget it all.

She is a quiet witness to domestic politics and its horrors, and to tyranny and its acceptance, and to the unfairness of it all.

It is Bena’s inability to conform, because she is too young to know its consequences, that shapes this story into what it is.

Her father meets with an accident which means Bena has to return to Gaya, in a story that comes a full circle. This, perhaps, is simply the story of Bena’s tryst with what could have been her fate, but isn’t, because of her grit and chutzpah. Benazir is a good girl, and this is her story.

Author Dr. Shibal Bhartiya is an eye surgeon, currently working as s Senior Consultant at Fortis Memorial Research Hospital.

Apart from working in the medical field for such a long time, Dr. Bhartiya always had an interest in literature & especially the fictional world so she entails a very interesting story by coming up with this book. 

Source Article