Life in the city is fast and comfortable that we often take for granted the facilities and benefits it provides. Thul, a village on the western coast of India existed on the map but it was brought to existence by none other than award-winning author Anita Desai who bases her story of struggle, survival and hope through the life of Lila and Hari.
Lila, 13 and Hari, 12 followed by two other sisters are inhabitants of Thul. Living in a thatched hut with crumbling walls besides sharing space with a drunkard father and a perennially ill mother, Lila and Hari run the entire household. They both sacrificed their education to become the bread earners of the family and also to support their sister’s education- Bela and Kamala.
Most of the occupation in villages is seasonal hence one cannot expect employment throughout the year. This is when the trouble begins in the poverty-stricken families as there is no constant source of income. Lila and Hari strive to make at least one square meal available for the six of them.
The plot is never boring and soon takes a turn of events when Hari leaves for Bombay without informing anyone. He needed a path to escape and what’s better than a group of protesters from his village already marching towards Bombay?
On reaching the City of Dreams, reality hits him. He follows the address given to him by Mr De Silva who promised him to work in Bombay. Alas! Hari toiled the entire city, tired and hungry only to find at the doorstep of the Silvas that they went back to Thul to spend their summer vacation. All of a sudden Hari is alone with nothing. The unforeseen leaves his over exhausted body voiceless so much that he replies the watchman through his body movements. The friendly watchman takes Hari to Jaggu, a small eatery owner who is known to offer shelter and work to the destitute.
Life unbolts for Hari and sharpens with unfamiliar experiences. He lets no opportunity unattended to learn from them. Back at Thul Lila manages the household now with the help of the kind de Silvas who take the responsibility of curing Lila’s mother. Adversity inevitably brings about change in one form or the other, in this case, it has been for the better.
Anita Desai was awarded the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for The Village by the Sea. She has been the winner of many such accolades including Padma Bhushan in 2014.
Desai is adept at seeing deep into the human psychology bringing out the best in lucid language for her readers to understand with ease. Her style is simple and raw making the children novels like this one very attracting yet meaningful.