Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani: Book Review by Yokibu Editorial
Posted on: September 27, 2019.

The story is about a young teenage Indian girl, Priyanka, living in America, who has never met her father, and yearns to know why she, and her single mother, left India for a life abroad, and about her identity and the Hindu religion. Certain difficulties, fears, and uncertainties manifest in the teenager, as the newcomer’s experience acquires many layers.

After quite a few gentle attempts at seeking answers to her questions, Priyanka turns quite rude in enquiring her mother who chastises by saying that Indian children never talk to their parents in a rude way. Her talent in illustrating comics bring Priyanka solace, as does Uncle Jathin, her vehicle driving instructor, and endearing father figure. For Priyanka, whose mother only admonishes her—“In India they don’t allow girls to drive!”—the calm and trusting nature of Uncle Jathin brings welcome relief.

Sadly, however, Uncle Jathin’s baby falls sick and become less available to Priyanka, which causes the stirring of a new set of emotions within her. Priyanka senses the slipping away of her Indian identity that Uncle Jathin had anchored in her. The chasm between her mother and her widens as her mother turns more intrusive and Priyanka is left alone with her with no Uncle Jathin to balance it. “It’s harder to be a girl in India than you think”, her mother starts off with truism, albeit, before opening up.

One day, Priyanka realizes, while ferreting about in her mother’s old suitcase stowed away in a closet, that she has discovered something fantastic—a magical silk shawl, or Indian pashmina! She places it over her shoulders and, instantly, is teleported to a strange land inhabited by a talking elephant, Kanta, and a small blue bird, Mayur, who proclaim, “We’ve been waiting for you.” Priyanka discovers this magical place to be none other than India!

Priyanka tours India’s palaces and shares tender moments with Kanta and Mayur, yet a mysterious shadow lurks along the edges. Even before she can fathom this phenomenon, her world abruptly cuts to reality, turning black-and-white, and she realizes that the magical pashmina has slipped off her shoulders. While the sequences in which Priyanka discovers India explode with vibrant color, in shades of the narrative, her return to reality and everyday life contrasts with dark purples.

From her frequent visits to India facilitated by the magical pashmina, Priyanka reminds her mother, after being able to connect with her inherited culture, that instead of giving in to sadness, she can choose to meditate on the word “Om”, just like the “goddess of energy and power”, Shakti. “It’s a choice, Mom! Choose to be calm,” she further elucidates. Eventually, Priyanka is able to really travel to India and has all her questions answered by her aunt there. And the pashmina gives her a mission.

More questions for Priyanka, to be answered, are presented by the magical pashmina—“Did Uncle Jathin know her dad?” “Why doesn’t her mother want to visit India?”—which also serves as a shroud for family secrets that have traveled across borders, seas and time. Priyanka continues to imagine about India, a land filled with palaces, tigers, coconut chutney and custard apple, the pashmina serving as a portal. Much like the sacred pashmina that creates a more tangible spiritual path by facilitating Priyanka’s prayers to Goddess Shakti, this finely embroidered tale beautifully unfolds.

The story is served in meaningful ways by every character, speech bubble, wordless panel and choice of color. The story’s darker moments are softened by the cuteness on which the narrative leans. The fascinating plot elements keep spinning and lend distinction to the story, which is its most impressive quality.

A whole subcontinent cannot be capture in one’s sole writing, yet it is that living sense of a small part of it—and characters to care about—which readers shall experience at the end of reading the book!

NOTE: Did you just finish reading a book and liked it? Recommend it to others on Yokibu!
Email us about the book you read to with the subject line "Book Review".

Leave a Comment

Disclaimer: The information contained within this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining advice from professional experts. The ideas and views expressed here are all from the authors of the content and not from Yokibu. Please seek assistance from professional experts for your specific needs.