Novel: The Tailor’s Needle
Author: Lakshmi Raj Sharma
Publisher: Penguin India
Page Count: 336
Genre: Pre-Independence Fiction, British-Raj Fiction, Historical Novel
While contemporary literature is facing a crisis in India with an abundance of literature being published without quality and purpose, the novels which are well-positioned and worth-reading are either not very much visible to masses or readers at large do not take interest in those. There might be many reasons for the same and we can keep tracing those one by one. Nevertheless, I am here to discuss a novel, The Tailor’s Needle, written by Lakshmi Raj Sharma and published in 2012, which will not only prove to be a vital read but also a very important shift in the discourse of contemporary fiction if read by people at large. Here, let me very clear that youths may not like the pace of the novel which keeps varying to suit the scenes being discussed. However, if read patiently and pondered, this novel can offer too much to the current generation of readers in India.
Lakshmi Raj Sharma’s book begins with an introduction to Sir Saraswati Chandra who seems to be an experienced, profound and worthy man with a depth in his intellect that has gathered too much in life. His son, in contrast, appears too little in front of him – Yogendra. Savitri is his wife who is an Indian woman out and out with the compassionate heart of a mother. The readers are informed that Sir Saraswati Chandra Ranabakshi is the prime minister of a certain state Kashinagar. His king dies and he has to leave the state for his own betterment. Sir Saraswati’s two daughters, Maneka and Sita are two entirely contrasting characters. Sita is homely, obedient and meek. Maneka is stubborn, self-depended (mentally) and open-minded.
In the backdrop of usual home affairs, a ringing bell of freedom movement can be heard more than often. The novelist has not only pulled the legs of the British in this on several occasions with episodes full of sarcastic witty dialogues and exchanges but also by very simple acts of line construction. This is one of the reasons for which many leading Indian book review sites have praised this novel.
“Norris needed some Indian friends because the Indian National movement was growing under the leadership of stalwarts like Gandhi, and Englishmen sometimes felt unsafe in this country. Bertram and Yogendra became the best of friends and the Englishman began to drop in with his dogs at the Ranbakshi residence. The entire family was fond of Bertram Norris and they became rather intimate with him. Sir Saraswati felt that he, like the average Englishman, was highly trustworthy.” (Sharma, 201-2)
While the central concerns in the novel are mostly class conflicts that the English tried to further intensify and also the religious rift, Ranabakshi and Vaish families coming together in the difficult times and working like one big family in the times of need give the readers hope and reflect a picture that India was not all bad in those years and neither all good… Maneka’s episodes can be seen as the extra layers added to a novel of concerns. Maneka’s love affair with an Englishman bring woes to her parents and later, her husband, Mohan’s death bring further woes to the family which brings them to Dehradun and they open a new chapter in their lives with the help of Vaish family. Gauri and Yogendra episode can also be seen as a symbolical victory over class conflicts.
Lakshmi Raj Sharma has written his debut novel in a very convincing language that lets the readers experience and visualise the years of 1930s in a more realistic and assuring way. The dwindling allegiance, whether to be a complete English or remain. Part-Indian and Part-British, using sophisticated English or remains obedient to the mother tongue, whether to be friends with the British or not… all the apprehensions and expectations are vividly painted in the novel by the author. It has not only literary but also a historical and social depth. I would recommend this book to the readers who are interested in reading contemporary Indian fiction with serious themes and equally supportive language and narrative. L R Sharma’s The Tailor’s Needle, to me, is a literary masterpiece with very limited limitations!
Review by Aditya for Active Reader Book Blog
The Tailor's Needle by Lakshmi Raj Sharma
- Active Reader Score
The Tailor’s Needle is a novel for readers who love reading literary fiction. It is a simple historical plot that is part-realistic and part-perspective. The characters are all life-like figures with follies and qualities of their time. The themes are various and serious. The novel, overall, may appear moving slow if you have stuffed your mind with too much of contemporary romantic fiction. Reading it is worthwhile!