Though fiction set in India has recently broadened our view of its culture, only Bharati Mukherjee’s Desirable Daughters has addressed the. Summary and reviews of A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi, plus links to a book excerpt from A Breath of Fresh Air and author biography of Amulya. A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi – book cover, description, publication history.

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On the night of December 3,when the leakage of methyl isocyanate from the American Union Carbide plant hit the unsuspecting, small city of Bhopal, India, it became a tragedy of monumental proportions.

It spawned, too, a well-publicized lawsuit, with hundreds and thousands of dollars paid in compensation to the families of victims who had either died or eventually suffocated to death. Called the worst industrial disaster of the Eighties, its asphyxiating horror has been captured in articles, books and documentaries.

A Breath of Fresh Air author Malladi was a schoolgirl, living in army barracks where her father was stationed a few miles away from the Union Carbide factory. That night she was asleep and was personally untouched by the tragedy, at least physically.

Her family was saved because wir the whimsical wind, which amulha to blow in the direction away from them.

A Breath of Fresh Air — book review

For her debut novel, Malladi, who was born and raised in India and now lives in Denmark with her husband and son, chooses to go back to the scene of the tragedy and reconstruct a fictional story of love, marriage, and relationships. The setting could have been anywhere, but Malladi deliberately chooses to put her characters in that time and place. Nineteen eighty-four was an bretah year for India.


Apart from the Bhopal gas tragedy, as the media termed it, the country was torn by the Hindu-Sikh riots that occurred after then-prime minister Indhira Gandhi was assassinated by her vreath personal bodyguards, both Sikhs.

Their homes and businesses were looted and then burnt down. A governmental inquiry into the riots is still pending in the Indian courts, unresolved. Malladi weaves the riots into the story as her heroine, twenty-something Anjali, finds herself in an ugly rift with a Sikh friend who ends their friendship. In real life, Malladi never witnessed the devastation firsthand, but in the book she places Anjali near the scene.

Anjali is waiting late at night at the railway station for her husband Prakash, an army officer, to pick her up. He never shows up, and she gets caught up in the chaos.

I clasped my throat and closed my eyes as they started to burn and water. Something was wrong, my mind screamed wildly as I, along with the others, tried to seek a reason for the tainted air we were breathing. But the taxi never makes it more than a few miles out of freshh station. The road hadsturned into a giant parking lot. An army jeep rescues her; she awakens in the hospital and realizes what has happened.

The next chapter opens with Anjali divorced and remarried to Sandeep, a professor who is gentle and supportive and her best friend, who knows all her secrets. She now teaches English to ninth graders and has an extremely sick son, Amar, who is critically ill from the aftereffects of his exposure to the chemicals.


A Breath of Fresh Air

As she struggles through daily comfortable life, teaching, cooking, and dealing with her widowed sister-in-law who now lives with them, she runs into her ex-husband while shopping for fresh vegetables.

It had been a fantasy she had often played with: Anjali is far away from Bhopal, a place she’s never revisited, and in her small town community her divorce has been a secret.

How she makes peace with herself and with her parents who have never approved of either her divorce or her second husband, how she reconciles her dual roles as a working mother and wife and how a single event changes thousands of people forever are the themes explored in this book.

As a first novel, A Breath of Fresh Air is a great attempt.

It reads well and it is crisply written, but the exploration of arranged marriages, the stigma of divorce and Indian society, could have been better explored by themselves. It is not a terribly original concept; authors like Bharati Mukherjee and Chitra Divakaruni have been breatth it for years.

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