Title: SWEET NEEM
Author: Mohini Durgampudi
Publish Year: 2018
OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK
Set in Hyderabad, also known as the City of Pearls, this is a story of three generations coming together in a year across cultural, social and generational divides. The family deals with life and death and grapple with love and loss. The younger ones are awed by the ancient city with its ultra-modern trappings while the elders witness the magic and power of digital revolution and social media. Sri and Mia have to hit the ground running when they move to India to take over the struggling family business, Restaurant Annapurna. The groom died in celebratory gunfire after the wedding. What to do with the big fat Indian wedding feast already prepared for the hundreds of guests?! What about Annapurna? And why Sweet Neem?
The name ‘Sweet Neem‘ was the first element that seized my attention even before reading the excerpt of about the book the author, Mohini Durgampudi sent me when she approached me for a review! Also, the cover of the novel is quite catchy with a bright coloured red chilli powder spread over, with the iconic Charminar in the background, making it evident that the story is set in Hyderabad. One of the prime reasons why I was very much intrigued to read the book is because of my Love for Hyderabad. Period.
The story revolves around how a newlywed couple, Sri and Mia manage to maintain and run a family owned restaurant named ‘Annapurna‘ and the setbacks they face in doing so. Let me be clear when I state that even though Sri and Mia play the lead roles of the story, nowhere in the course of the whole novel you feel that other characters weaved into the story are less important. The author succeeded the most in maintaining a balance between each and every aspect of the story. It is like each character stands firm as pillars to the narrative. It was delightful to see an amalgamation of numerous emotions and perspectives in a single storyline! Even though there aren’t many twists and turns, the author managed to seize my attention with a simple storyline. It was almost like any other story next door, but still, I was surprised by the fact that I couldn’t just lay the book down until I finished reading it altogether.
Hyderabad has a very diverse community, and it reflects in the way local’s lead their life here. That is something which fascinates me, and if given a chance I would never move out of this beautiful city! Even saying that all those fresh and colourful aspects of life in Hyderabad are beautifully captured in this book would be an understatement; As I feel guilty about not being able to describe it more beautifully! The most exciting aspect of the book is the chapter names the author has chosen. Each section has a title that represents a food item, and It would surprise you how the author introduced that title of food into the storyline. It not only signifies the food and its taste in general but how its flavour relates to life. There is also a hidden touch of humour in the form of quirky Hyderabad lines that refresh the set of the story every now and then.
The author somehow managed to fit in all the slants of Hyderabad varying from ‘A Sense of Humanity to Ugly Truth‘ and ‘Opulent lanes to Narrow alleys‘ into the storyline.
The book talks a lot about food and cuisines and also explores the facts behind the usage of each ingredient which again goes well with the narrative. There is an offside that some might feel it unpalatable as it talks a lot about food, but still, it is a matter of perception. Being a foodie, I loved the noise the food, spices, and its talk created in the storyline. The author also managed to cover the religious diversity of Hyderabad, and different festivals celebrated interestingly along with the food and its essence in everyday life. By the end of the storyline, the author leaves a feel of Hyderabad like a heartbeat inside you and desire to see the city which is a paradise in its own unique way!
Just to be clear, if you are expecting it to be filled with twists and turns, then you will be disappointed. There was a single instance where the description of the food felt a bit stretched, but I am not letting that affect the rating I give for the book on the whole, as for me, the real essence is the story. Though I was a bit disappointed and felt like a bit more could have been added to the ending, I came to peace with the fact that it is meant to be like that; Simple and close to heart!
Mohini Durgampudi is an entrepreneur, food safety instructor, and assists at a culinary incubator. She started her career in the IT sector but took a very happy and eager detour into the food industry.
An avowed bookworm, her writings so far have been anonymous contributions to travel and food blogs and crowd-sourced websites. Sweet Neem is her first book, and it brings together her love for food, travel, family, history, and culture.
You can follow her work on Facebook.
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