The title had my interest piqued and I had been meaning to buy the book ever since I had read ‘Betrayed- Tale of a rogue surgeon,‘ written by the same author in 2018. The story had taken me by surprise. It spoke of the murky world of private hospitals and ambitious doctors driven by greed- doctors who will stoop to any level to meet their own personal agendas. During the time I was reading the book my life revolved around taking dad to the hospital to find out the cause of him losing weight and being constipated. While the doctors never did find out what was wrong, they never failed to conduct tests and charge exorbitant fees. Reading the book at the time was a classic case of fiction meeting real life – that is why it is is one story that I’m unlikely to ever forget. Also, probably because it was nothing that I expected. The story was not what I’d expected from the soft-spoken, warm, maternal-looking author I’d met in 2018.

‘For God loves foolish people,‘ was presented to me by the author during her visit to Mumbai in early 2019. Her gentle persona made it hard for me to understand how such a person could have written ‘ Betrayed.’ I asked her and she smiled. It seems silly to me now that I asked.

The author’s autobiographical novel, ‘For God loves foolish people,’ is written in a conversational and easy to follow manner.

It talks about the author’s life – born to an aristocratic family, she had a blessed childhood in the beautiful hill town of Nainital where she was provided everything she wanted. The description of the hills, her life there- going to school on a horse, her grandfather and the clout he had over the city, her awareness of it tells the story of a child born with a golden spoon. The author’s life in Mumbai to where she moved to during her high school years sheds light on the life of the affluent in India, during the fifties and sixties – the shocking high society parties, her convent schooling, her friends and neighbors who belonged to the same society.

The author’s early marriage at the age of 16 takes a 360 degree turn in her life. It puts a spoke in her dream of wanting to be a doctor and yet she does not break. Despite the rich life she had, she adapts to the new family which is far more conservative compared to her own family ( the women had to cover their heads while speaking to other males in the family which is in contrast to the author’s mother who knew horse riding and sword fighting, having been brought up in Iran and the author’s grandmother who went around campaigning for the Congress party in her times). Through the narration, one gets to understand the culture and beliefs of those days. For instance she talks about her uncle who remarried after the death of his wife but would not allow the same for his sister. Another instance is when the author talks about her inability to conceive after marriage and the pressures of society on a woman to bear a child. ‘The terrible question would be asked every month, “Have you had your periods?”

What I liked about the book?

The author’s description of the cities and life in Nainital, Mumbai and Delhi are heart-warming and anybody who has stayed in these cities will smile because the descriptions are vivid. The contrast in the lives of people in Mumbai- first through the author’s school years as a member of the elite crowd and later through the story of the nurses- Joyce, Roshan and Ruby whom she meets, during her mother-in-law’s one month stay at the hospital throws light on the disparity in the lives of the privileged and not-so-privileged. It touched my heart and was a reminder that we must not judge anybody because we have absolutely no idea about their lives.

I especially liked the description of her life in Delhi. Never having lived in the city, I have always wondered what is it that makes the people of Delhi different. This book talks of the difference. It was interesting knowing that houses here had no lawn or compound walls, people sleep on the terrace on string cots just before the coming of the Easterlies, the room on the terrace in which the cots are stored is called ‘Barsati,’ the flirting that happens on the terraces, the ‘Tandoor wala,’ who goes home to home selling Tandoori rotis for a paisa, the cooking on a charcoal ‘sigri.’

The author’s description of Nainital and her life there as a child brought back memories of Ruskin Bond’s stories in Dehradun. It makes me want to pack my bag and travel.

The book makes a mention of all historical events that happened during the time and the impact of these on business, such as the Indo-Pak war of 1965 and 1971- how her grandfather bought all the vehicles used during the war, dismantled the vehicles and sold the motor parts making a business out of it; of how the British had 2 capitals when they were in India- a summer capital and a winter capital and how her granduncle reaped huge profits because of this – the contract to move all official documents from one capital to another every year was given to his company.

The narration of the story slowly progresses going back and forth between time periods and different members of the family. I found it a little confusing at times.

On the whole the story is a light read of family and of life with its joys, sorrows, hurdles and victories. There are a lot of takeaways. The last few chapters spoke to me.

The simplicity of the writing, the description of the times, reminded me in some way of Roberta Cheadle’s book -‘Book Review : While the Bombs Fell

A few lines from the book so you know what to expect

Of her best friend whom she lost touch with for 48 years, having parted ways after the author’s engagement. –“I always planned to (write). In my mind I would be framing the letters that I would soon write to her debating how to convey to her the anguish of my broken soul.” How often does this happen to us, that we think of people, talk to them in our heads but never really get in touch with them because life gets in the way.

When they meet and the author hopes their families can meet too, her friend says, “Let us relish what we are enjoying today. When more comes, we’ll enjoy that too, but if it does not happen, we ought not to be disappointed!”

The last time the author meets her dad which is just before he has a stroke that renders him immobile, he says, “What difference does it make whether I’m eighty or ninety? I actually stopped living the day your mother went away twenty five years ago.” It made me think of my dad who had said the same words to me, a few months before he passed away.

Of Delhi women, she says, “I began to observe that these ‘suppressed, tormented and abused’ ladies were in fact behind every major decision taken in the family. They had access to such guile and manipulation that at the end they managed to have their way with the pompous, foolish men thinking that they were ruling the household.”

Of marriage she says, ” the most productive part of my life (pun intended) was beginning. A new schooling, a new education was now needed. I realized I now needed to learn about sex, to begin with and ordered a book published by the Reader’s Digest titled, ‘Every thing you always wanted to know about sex.’

About Karol Bagh and sleeping on the terrace – “If you awoke at midnight, the place was a voyeurs’ paradise! But nothing can beat the cold breeze after a sweltering day, coming from the east called ‘ Purvayee’ or the Easterlies.

When the author is not allowed to study further and her marriage is fixed at the tender age of 14 despite being brought up in a progressive family, she says, ” With their upbringing I cultivated a strong character, confidence, a thinking mind. I began to recognize hypocrisy as a way of life and not just a one-time tactic to tide over a situation. Every one is a hypocrite, with no exceptions.”

There are so many more lines, excerpts in the 165 page book that I liked but sharing them here isn’t possible.

Who is this book for? For all those who want to get a glimpse of life and culture in India during the fifties, sixties and seventies. For those who enjoy reading a book on growing up, family, cities – of succeeding despite the hurdles that may come up in one’s way and one that talks of flowing with the tide and finding happiness.

The book is available on Amazon India – Rs 147.00 for paperback and free on Kindle for subscribers. It can be bought using the following link

https://www.amazon.in/God-Loves-Foolish-People/dp/9382711090

Book blurb

Copyright@ Smithavishwanathsblog.com. All Rights Reserved.

Posted by:Smitha V

A banker by profession, a blogger by choice, a poet by accident, and an artist at heart. Imperfectly perfect - that's me. Welcome to my world!

2 replies on “Book Review : For God Loves Foolish People by Satbir Chadha

  1. That IS a great title, Smitha. Sounds like a great book. Perhaps I’ll read it. You know the author? I love that line, “everyone is a hypocrite, with no exceptions.” Yes, that’s true. It’s interesting her mother lets her down, doesn’t stand by her. It’s hard to deal with it when people don’t stand up for your right to be you — because somehow it threatens them in some way. The hardest lesson in life seems to be: one must get comfortable allowing others to think differently–no matter how abhoreent –the only real transgression. We betray ourselves the moment we try to eliminate, erase that different thought, no matter how “right” we might feel our ideas. We must learn we cannot stand out ourselves in a monochrome world. The one transgression that is unforgiveable.

    We can only disappear, fade to nothing. Diversity of appearance is nothing without diversity of thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what I thought too Lynn, of the title – Interesting! I know the author now because I’ve met her twice and read this book. The line you picked out of the book shocked me too. Being from such a well-placed family who had it all, the author was not given the right to do what she wished to do. It represents the culture of a certain section on society and not the entire society for her close friend did go on to become a doctor in the US. In the book she says, her husband refused to support her college dream because he did not want his wife to be more educated than him and yet she learnt to love him and continue with him, was also something that surprised me. Thanks Lynn for reading and sharing your thoughts on our need to stand for ourselves.

      Like

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