Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


Tales Across Time: My family's life in India, 1846 to 1990
Lalita Gandbhir, who was born in 1938 and grew up in Pune, India, vividly and insightfully describes her family's life, spanning a period from her great-grandfather's generation to the recent past (1846 to 1990). She addresses everything from issues of caste to birthing and parenting practices to arranged marriages, family living arrangements, and customs. She covers such memorable events as the influenza pandemic of 1918, her family's periodic retreat into the jungle during epidemics of plague, ghosts that lived among people, mob attacks near her family's bungalow following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, and her own experience as a young child during World War II. She also profiles each member of three generations of her extended family, offering a portrait of a family that left behind a primitive agrarian existence in Konkan, Maharashtra for a more urban, professional one in Pune. The book also features contributions by several family members who share their own recollections. "I am writing this book," Gandbhir explains, "because my children and grandchildren wanted to know about the lives of their forefathers, and what life was like in India's villages, where their forefathers lived…The picture I have painted is incomplete. But I have done the best I can, so that hopefully future generations will have some knowledge about their forefathers."
Gandbhir’s memoir chronicles the life of four generations of the Rege family, beginning with the matriarch Ba, in the mid-nineteenth century, in the rainforest village of Kochare in India’s Konkan region, and ending with her great grandchildren as the 20th century draws to an end. What shines through all these years and history is the indomitable spirit of the women and their wonderful adaptability. Life in rural Konkan in the times covered here was tough, especially for barely literate women, who worked non-stop, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children and the elderly. But as the situation improves with the coming of basic amenities and education, not everyone celebrated all the new ways. “To the aunts, indoor toilets were anathema,” Gandbhir writes. She quotes them: “‘Our home is like a temple. We have gods in the house. We are soiling a temple.’”

A foreword, family chart, and photographs help in anchoring the reader to the narrative. The simple linear chronicle is narrated for the most part in a detached, anthropological voice with its own charm (“Some babies were happy to be massaged. Others screamed bloody murder”), even when describing dramatic events like living in a jungle to avoid the plague epidemic, the death of a woman from “in-law harassment,” or the horrors of a difficult childbirth, where the midwife asks the family “mother or baby?” and proceeds to save the life of one according to the answer.

Except when writing of her own father and of Kaki Aie, her widowed aunt, who took care of the author and her sister after their mother’s death, the author sticks to this matter-of-fact tone. The author’s sister Kunda is more forthcoming in her reminiscence about Kaki Aie where she opines that maybe the two sisters were a form of protection for the young widow, as Kaki Aie would shake her awake at night if someone knocked at their bedroom door sending the unwelcome visitor scurrying away. Death during childbirth or in the marital home was a fact of life, a truth driven home by this concise family history and act of love.

Takeaway: Study of four generations of a family from the Konkan region of India.

Comparable Titles: Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, Firoozeh Dumas’s Funny in Farsi.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A