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Book cover The Henna Artist

The Henna Artist

Escaping from an arranged and abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone from her 1950s rural village to the vibrant pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the henna artist—and confidante—most in demand to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…
Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.
Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.
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Annapoorni T.S
Book- The Henna Artist
Author- @thealkajoshi
Genre- Historical Fiction
Publisher- @_mira_books_
My Rating- 3.5⭐ “I’m thinking that the new India, well, she may not be quite ready to give up her old ways. And that might be for the best.”
It's just short of a decade since India won its freedom-1956.
Remanants of colonization are visible even today, must have been so much more evident then. Our customs, the railways, the love for the English language(sometimes at the cost of the vernacular), the modern medicine, the school system are all embedded in our 'Indianness'.
#TheHennaArtist is an intricate narration (much like the henna patterns and the mandalas she creates) of the life of Lakshmi, an ambitious and educated village girl who runs away from her marriage. The ghost of her ill reputation forever thwarts her family's 'honour' and is carried over to her sister who wasn't even born at the time. But such is the value we attach to a woman's virtue, even today.
Lakshmi is much ahead of her times in her thinking, her ambitions and her strive for independence. I can't imagine how difficult the journey must have been for her (even today, in a lot of ways). We see her grappling with ideas of success and growth, and at what cost they come.
Her traditional knowledge of herbs combined with her drawing skills ensures her popularity with her 'ladies'. Her knowledge, garnered from her mother-in-law, is put to use for mere fluff in Jaipur- making the ladies look and feel better.
The book reveals the caste and class system, the privilege and entitlement that accompany class and gender. (Gender- at all levels of class and caste).
I am surprised by the monetary values mentioned in the book, despite Lakshmi catering to the elite and the royalty. I think it's on the higher side. I mean, gold cost was only Rs 72/sovereign.
This book is this month's read on @reesesbookclub

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13 May 2020 (10:28) 
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