Oh, the mysteries of life & not-always-funny universe, our responsibility of free will, the arduous mountain-climb of intermingling separate individual desires. Since time immemorial, each individual has taken his or her quest. Many of Upadhyay’s characters are supremely devout and several older characters adhere strictly to their disciplines. They have their pantheon of major and minor gods. The Book of Life. The Wheel of Fate. Accepting what one cannot control, learning backwards and living forward, what theologian Paul Tillich calls loving oneself and others with divine acceptance keeps occurring as a dominant theme.
The role of elders as would-be-seers makes for another element in Uphadyay’s unique blend of transcultural storytelling. One Hindi mother physically strikes her unwed daughter, bombastically tries to hide her pregnancy from the whole neighborhood. Her husband, Mohandas, who has a soft-spot for inviting street-dwelling holy men to his home and whistling religious tunes, finally tells her: “You worry too much.” Heprovides an embodiment of namaste and the “OM-like” peace he radiates throughout his wife’s moral journey, toward a non-rule based awareness of what their beloved daughter’s going through, perhaps shows us Upadhyay at his best. Prior to her husband’s cool-headed intervention—abortion is totally out of the question—the mother insists that their family’s only option would be an orphanage:
“It won’t stay with us,” she said, slamming the door shut so that Shanti, her daughter wouldn’t hear.
“It won’t?” Mohandas said, combing his hair.
“Do you know what you’re saying?”
“I’m not saying anything,” he said calmly, ignoring the rise in her voice. He pointed towards Shanti’s room. “What is she saying?”
Gradually, this mother accepts the presence of yellow-toothed codger who plants himself outside her house, not a beggar precisely, as he never requests anything, but a sadhu, or devotee of Shiva. She gives him tea and a little bread. She’s constantly complaining because her husband comes from the landowning Bhandari Brahmin family, resentful over his menial job. Following a long night worrying that her grandson’s father was a dark-skinned “madhisey from the flatlands,” she finds the yellow-toothed man peeking in the house’s front door: