Majra Jacquelin Singh
Nicholas Graywall arrives in Berkeley from India in 1968 with a graduate scholarship in his pocket,an anglicized name, and lots of charm. But his occasional secretiveness and a series of self-destructive moves threaten his future in America until he agrees to confront what's haunting him. This opens the door to his childhood past in Majra and to the most startling source of his deliverance. More
Nicholas Graywall is a winner. It's 1968, and he's just arrived from India with a scholarship to the Berkeley Law School in his pocket, an anglicized name, and lots of charm. Leslie Gordon, the tutor he hires to help with an English assignment, becomes his best friend and mentor. She delights in his outgoing nature and exotic aura. But she's bewildered by his occasional secretiveness and sudden, mysterious withdrawal into silence. She wants to know why.
Leslie collects bits and pieces of Nick's life as a child in the Punjab village Majra as he reveals them -- "not all in one go, but in a series of stills, as in a slide show run at an unpredictable speed". Many aunts, uncles, and cousins; town folk, house servants, and field workers people this feudal world. But Majra itself figures foremost in Nick's memory. Nikku's (Nick's) grandfather, a wealthy landowner, heads the estate. An American bride, Helen, is a "phoren" presence on the scene.Hostility erupts between her and Nikku's mother Dilraj Kaur, who find themselves married to the same man: Tej, the older son of the family head. The friction between the two reaches an unbearable pitch with the birth of Helen's son. The scene unravels with the discovery of some life-threatening black magic worked on the infant. The family decides to send Dilraj Kaur and Nikku away for good, in spite of her spirited protests against their banishment. The two are to go to her brother's estate in Faridkot, an overnight train ride -- and an eternity away.
In Berkeley, Nick drifts into the psychedelic world that surrounds him and embarks on a series of self-destructive moves that threaten his academic success and mystify those who wish him well. Sam, the "flower child", and the beguiling Sara Kaury, a Lebanese immigrant and successful San Francisco lawyer, enter his life with a tug of war, the one drawing him further away from his purpose, the other trying to "save" him. Finally Nick volunteers for the Vietnam War, a surprising turn that means a prolonged absence from his academic life and from Leslie, the only friend who has not given up on him.
Nick's stint in the Vietnam War over, he returns to Berkeley to complete his law degree. But the challenge of settling down to academic work after the shattering war experience proves too much. He takes up with Sam again, only to find that life in a hippie commune beside the Russian River is not the future he sees for himself. It's back to the University where he finally completes his degree.
A framed diploma to hang in his office, a plum of a new job offer, and Nick is ready to go for the good life, when a telegram arrives from New Delhi, India. It's from his uncle-stepfather Tej calling him back: Nick is desperately needed to help the family over a crisis. Nick declares he won't go, hasn't he always declared he would never return to India? Ever. But Leslie prevails on him to heed his uncle's plea. It's a decision that opens the closed door of Nick's past, demons and all, and becomes the means of his deliverance -- from the most unexpected source.
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