The book alternates between Nalini’s and her daughter Maya’s narrative but actually it is a story of three women belonging to three generations – Ammu the grandmother, Nalini the mother and Maya the daughter. The grandmother takes very less space of the complete narration but remains in the scene till the very end of the book. That is the power of the character of a lady and I am afraid it will get unnoticed by some readers but I feel, her tampering of authentic spices and pearls of wisdom derived from the same are the common thread binding the three generations together. Nalini always derived solace and strength from these same recipes and the art of cooking to define and understand the meaning of her own life. Later Maya followed the same route to make peace with the truth.
’100 Shades of White’ is a story of Nalini, a village cook’s daughter whose fate takes her from a conservative Kerala setting to the big city of Mumbai. She becomes a mother of two children – Maya and Satchin. Her husband Raul stays mostly away on business trips and one fine day summons the family to join him in London. Maya and Satchin enjoy the pleasures of new life they are introduced to but this does not continue for long and Raul leaves his family, never to return back. In order to shield her children from this brutal truth, Nalini tells them a white lie that their father is dead. She strives hard against all odds in an alien land, to provide a decent life to her children and with the help of some friends and her knowledge of spices, she manages to rise above all these troubles. But later the truth does come back to haunt them.
While working for a better life for her children, she had the support of two very dear friends and her mother’s words on cooking and on one of the most important lessons of life – about the magic of forgiveness and the miracles which are made possible by it.
‘The art of putting together food is a magical thing and if it is done right it has the power to soften the most hardened heart’ .
‘Forgiveness from a broken heart combusted energy that made insurmountable obstacles just dissolve.’
Nalini practiced the art of combining the two – forgiveness through the aroma of medley of spices and tampering of them in the pickles to carve a successful life for herself and for her children.
Later Maya in pursuit of the truth, retraces her roots from London, back to Mumbai and then to Kerala.
In spite of narrative jumping from mother to the daughter, the flow is impeccable. The way last few chapters are handled by the author are commendable and speaks volumes about the author’s grasp on the human nature, vulnerabilities, insecurities and strengths.
However, the cover page is not the reflection of any part of the story so it is a little misleading. Also the tag line written with the title of the book – ‘There’s East. There’s West’, makes the readers believe that there is yet another book comparing the east and the west but that is hardly the point which the story wants to make.
Again, not a literary masterpiece but still an interesting and engaging story.