Tanya Tania, Tanya Talati and Tania Ghosh, two girls who grew up suddenly into adolescence thanks to the ongoing political turmoil in their countries, India, and Pakistan and another turmoil, deeper inside both.
A story that kept me hooked for 18 hours and by the end, I was holding my breath. But it’s not just about two countries, It’s about two girls sharing their life with each other, their sorrows, their happiness and their darkest secrets.
Antara Ganguli’s first novel Tanya Tania revolves around two girls, Tanya Talati who resides in Karachi and Tania Ghosh who lives in Bombay. A time when violence was exploding in Pakistan and in India, a 16th Century mosque was about to be demolished by Kar Sevaks. But these girls were far away from such turbulence. They were busy in their own world, their boyfriends, parental issues, school-queen titles, and upcoming college life.
Both the protagonists mothers were good friends once upon a time. Out of boredom, Tanya Talati writes a letter to Tania Ghosh, sharing that her leg is broken and she couldn’t find anything else to do. And after a swift reply, their friendship takes off. They start exchanging letters, sharing about a mother who has fallen silent, household bills that are not being paid, sex dominating and becoming a weapon slowly, and servants who act like a better support system than parents. A friendship so unique and innocent that you drown in those letters, reminiscing the time when friendship was simple, and could even be shown via letters.
But then both the countries, India, and Pakistan were on the cusp of achieving power. And with power comes arrogance and ignorance. When Tanya’s brother receives a kidnapping threat, she sets a chain of events that no one could have predicted. Not even Tania, who was left alone in a city that was burning, riot-torn and flames that were coming closer and closer to her home.
Tanya Tania is a book that will leave you spellbound. As a debutante, Antara Ganguli’s writing is confident, fluent and very engaging! I loved the way she explained innocence of teenage of both the girls, their issues, their desperation, their love for their families and their frustration. It is a story that will quickly draw you into the world of friendship, living across the border. Different yet similar in so many ways.
Another main aspect of the book is the 1992 Babri Masjid Riots. Though I was just born at that time, but growing up I have heard many grotesque stories from my parents. How Advani decided in a swift moment that a Ram Mandir was supposed to be built, how they should demolish a mosque, and even Tanya Tania ask the same thing, that how come one man has so much power to demolish something so serene in one swift blow of his words. Babri Masjid was a debate topic in every home, even in Tania Ghosh’s home, where her father used to side with BJP and mother was free from any alliances. From the beginning only you could see signs of an upcoming tragedy.
By the end of the book, Antara Ganguli has shared what had befallen on the residents of Muslim areas in Bombay in a short yet horrific account. No regard for human life, only religion prevailing and cutting into people! 900 people massacred in the fight to prove which religion is better and pious. Even some residences were burned to the ground. Swords in hands and blood in eyes, Shiv Sena also jumped into the fight, to remove the Muslims forever from Bombay. 33 jurisdictions were under curfew, and in one of those jurisdictions, a girl was fighting to save her best friend, a scene that doesn’t go from my mind even after finishing the book.
All in all, Tanya Tania is a book that you will love and it will leave you in an awe. And it is something that you should definitely devour into this July. For Antara Ganguli, now I am patiently waiting for your next book, sipping my tea and reminiscing the letters of Tanya Tania.