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The Hindi-Bindi Club


The Hindi-Bindi Club

Take one part JOY LUCK CLUB, one part LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE and a dash of BEACHES. Simmer and stir, and you have THE HINDI-BINDI CLUB. Through wonderfully vivid personal history, stories, recipes, emails and letters, Monica Pradhan tells the story of different generations trying to cope.

The older generation of Indian women would get together to share secrets, hopes and recipes. Their American-born children nicknamed them the "Hindi-Bindi Club" and vowed never to become like their mothers, who held on furiously to old traditions. Meenal is desperate to reconnect with her estranged daughter, Kiran. Uma tries to help artist daughter Rani and save her from the ghosts that haunted Uma. Saroj and her daughter, Preity, appear to have the picture-perfect Indian-American lifestyle, but just beneath the surface monsoons are brewing.

Kiran rebelled from her traditional Indian parents and married an American rock musician. Unfortunately for Kiran, his rock-star behavior also included cheating on her. Humiliated and shunned by her strict father, she felt she had nowhere to turn. But now she's starting to rethink the Indian way of life. Maybe they had it right all along. Perhaps an arranged marriage (or semi-arranged) is the answer to all her problems. Meenal recently has gone through a bout of breast cancer and thankfully is recovering with an excellent prognosis for the future. She now realizes that life is too short to hold grudges and tries to make her unbendable husband, Yash, realize this as well. She's determined to make her relationship with Kiran work this time and for them to be a fully-functional family.

Uma incurred the wrath of her family back in India when she announced her plans to marry Irish-American Patrick. She was forced to abandon all that she knew in order to start life anew with her husband. Even after a number of years and many more letters to her obstinate father (and a deathbed visit), he declared that Uma never walk on Bengali soil ever again. Daughter Rani lives with her husband in San Francisco. After abandoning a career with NASA, Rani has been putting together a solo show as an artist. Lately, she has felt completely blocked and exhausted, wondering if she has anything else to give the art world.

Uma reflects back on her painful childhood with her artistic mother, who suffered from what is now known as clinical depression, but back then was rebuffed as laziness. After giving birth to twin girls instead of the boy who the entire family so prized, her mother hanged herself from the ceiling fan. Uma sees so much of her mother in her artistic daughter and wants to do all she can to help Rani find inspiration.

Saroj has led a storybook life with her husband and children. Preity is a model Indian daughter. For years, everyone admired their New Year's Eve parties. Saroj even turned her exquisite touch in the kitchen into a highly sought-after catering business. But bubbling beneath the perfect veneer, Saroj hides a secret that could wreck her perfect façade. Preity is happily married, living in Minneapolis with her husband and children but still is haunted by her first love --- a love that is unrequited and still has a hypnotic hold over her.

Pradhan's vibrant tale bears witness to the eternal struggle between mothers and daughters, with a slight Bollywood twist. Instead of elaborate musical numbers, the reader is treated to all manner of delicious, mouth-watering recipes that bookend each chapter. Told from the multiple points of view of both mothers and daughters, we see that, although cultures may be different, the problems between the generations are universal.  A rich tapestry of a people, a country and three distinct families is woven into this story of mothers and daughters, childhood and adulthood, marriage and love, food and sustenance.

An Indian mother feels it's her duty to pass along her recipes to her daughter, to "pass along her wisdom before she dies." Through THE HINDI-BINDI CLUB, Monica Pradhan lovingly has passed along her history, recipes and culture to hungry, grateful readers.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on May 1, 2007

The Hindi-Bindi Club
by Monica Pradhan

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 055338452X
  • ISBN-13: 9780553384529