Some books share stories with you. And then there are book like Teatime For The Firefly which transport you totally into a whole new world! A world which we never knew about, which was hidden until someone as talented as Shona Patel shared it with us.
Teatime For The Firefly follows the story of Layla Roy. Born under an inauspicious star, she is raised to be intelligent and independent by her unconventional Dadamoshai, who from time to time stands up and questions Indian society’s crude and decaying social norms. By cleverly manipulating the hand of fortune has dealt her, Layla manages to find the love of her life in Manik Deb, who is already engaged to Layla’s neighbor, Konica. Thanks to Manik’s maneuver of taking luck into his own hands, he manages to betroth Layla and take her away to his humble abode, Aynakhal tea estate, which is located in deep dark jungles of Assam.
Layla’s new life as a bride takes her away from her regular schedule and starts grueling her to understand what life at a tea estate means . Fascinated by expats who drink down their whiskey swiftly even during major of earthquakes and among snakes and man eating leopards, she struggles to find her place in a whole new world altogether. A world full of prickly English wives, some weird servants and crazy schedule of her husband who works as Assistant at the estate.
But Teatime For The Firefly is not just about settling in. Layla and her new life is growing right in the center of a huge political change, where India has started to flush out Britishers and clouds of second world war are looming. Local communists are moving in the deep jungles to claim their lands from colonials and Manik and Layla find themselves caught in treacherous racial divide that threatens their existence.
Teatime For The Firefly is a story that will take you back to the colonial times when India was at the verge of joining Second world war. Colonials were cooling their heels and ex-pats were working like crazy at tea estates, away from all the tension. All little things that Layla faces in Teatime With The Firefly, are nothing less than a miracle during a time when lives of Indian women were predetermined by societal norms and horoscopes. Between all the tension and cultural norms, Manik and Layla’s love story blossoms and is beautiful in it’s own way.
After reading Shona Patel’s debut, I am left with a feeling which is called “asking for more”! Teatime For The Firefly is such an engaging book that you will not feel like keeping it down. The story takes you back to a time unknown to many, a life never discovered by anyone. I researched a little and got to know that even Shona Patel was raised at a tea plantation in Assam, and that’s what made the source of Teatime For The Firefly. I can only imagine the amount of research and creativity must have gone into making of such a good book! Sharing a different culture from a very different time without boring the reader is something that a very few writers can pull off, and Shona Patel is one of them.
Teatime For The Firefly is like a hidden treasure full of insights into the colonial time of tea plantations, a hard lifestyle with it’s own perks, hidden in this book. A book which you should definitely devour into this summer!