Kintsugi by Anukrti Upadhyay: Book Review

Title: Kintsugi
Author: Anukrti Upadhyay
Genre: Literary Fiction

Kintsugi is an interweaving of cultures and of lives that dare to go beyond traditions and tragedies to rebuild themselves.

The Story


Set in Jaipur and Japan, the novel examines the lives of many women and men. The book opens with the seemingly shy and quiet Japanese girl, Haruko who lands in Jaipur to learn the craft of jewellery making. She is accepted as an apprentice only because she is a foreigner; the jewellers would not allow their own daughters to learn the craft ever.

When Haruko is bedridden due to an accident, it is Leela, the young daughter of a ‘kundansaaz’ who looks after her.

Haruko and Leela have different backgrounds and circumstances and there is a chasm in the resources available to them, yet Leela proves herself to be talented and later, through sheer persistence wins Haruko’s financial and professional help.

Haruko’s Japanese background finds her a government doctor who ostensibly is attracted to her because his own fiancee is in Tokyo. But Prakash betrayes Haruko as he himself is cast away by Meena, because he cannot fathom his emotions or control his actions.

Meena, his fiancee is inextricably linked to mysterious Yuri. But their relationship is doomed and Hajime is in the cross fire of a psychological manipulation. He eventually finds comfort and potential in Haruko’s companionship.

Review

Kintsugi feels like a collection of short stories of different characters, in their own voices, whole in themselves. Yet the people of these stories meet and influence each other’s lives, sometimes destroying and sometimes healing.

The craft of jewellery making is described in exquisite detail. The quiet way the book moves in the backdrop of such beauty is very comforting.

The places come alive so beautifully; the narrow lanes of Jauhri bazaar, the haveli and the government hospital. Japan is held in much awe, the anticipation to an onsen feels like you have been holding in your breath for eons to experience it.

Patriarchy, little rebellions to reclaim one’s freedom and exploring personal boundaries to grow are what the reader encounters again and again. There is an absence of hostility inspite of the characters having so many difficulties so that it seems that the spirit of Japanese resilience and quiet fortitude pervades the book.

The sexual rendezvous of each character is at the edge of a transgression: forbidden, not meeting societal expectations, moulding the lives of people in unexpected ways. But where physical relationships wreak havoc they also build bridges.

The art of mending broken objects with something as precious as gold puts the spotlight on flaws and how putting oneself back together is only beauty.

All shores are the same. You are the sea. Roll endlessly.

Verdict

Kintsugi is a multitude of emotions and cultures, washing over the reader so that aspiration, desire, hardship and resilience are all one.

Evocatively beautiful, as delicate as the enamelled jewellery it features, Kintsugi showcases how lives intersect and people’s paths cross and diverge over lifetimes.

Read the book for the languid beauty that lies in places and people.

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