How do you pick your books when you go to a bookstore? I usually pick the unusual ones, the ones that I have never heard of or are related to topics that I have never come across. This practice lead me to another brilliant book and a classic as per my mother, Damage by Amrita Kumar.
The story of Damage revolves around struggles of Christian minorities in India in a changing socio-political scenario. History, religion and finding one’s cultural identity is the core of this beautiful book. Gudda, the protagonist, lives with her single and fanatical born-again Christian mother in a house beside a stinking drain in South Delhi. Since she was a kid, Gudda experienced a strange environment where she encountered relatives from far and beyond and most of them distinctly odd. Some of these visitors pose a great danger to young Gudda, like Pila who once tried to sexually molest Gudda, and Darla, a faith healer found sleeping with a pastor, and then Zach’s gang, the new missionaries who eventually turn out to have ties with drug trades.
Once Gudda turns twenty-one, her life takes a turn when she leaves her home to move to Mumbai, and eventually gets married to a Hindu. Hurt and agonized, her mother disinherits her. And even the marriage is tumbling, just like the country. Under the new government, the Christians are constantly under attack. More than ever, Gudda feels the need to defend and firm her real identity. She returns to Delhi, back to her mother who is now senile and sisters who hate her like anything. To run away from it all, Gudda takes a journey to Rajasthan, to find her real roots, the warrior tribes of Dahiryas with whom her family has links. The trail takes her to places which redefine her definition of religious associations.
Damage is a brilliant book, but somewhere in the middle, it became a little confusing. I was really shocked to read about the atrocities that Christians faced at a time in India, I’ve never really known that! And by the end of it, Damage gives out a simple message on what matters to an individual in the end, and what doesn’t.