Have you ever read a book that you wanted to stop reading… but couldn’t? Darshan is such a book.
I am not exaggerating when I say that Darshan is one of the most beautifully written books I have read in a very long time. The prose is exquisite, evoking sensations I should not be able to feel. I have never been to India, yet while reading this novel I could smell the parched earth of the Punjab, and the spices that make Indian food so distinctive.
I have not been to Fiji either, yet lush, verdant green filled the backs of my eyes, and my skin seemed to sag beneath the cloying humidity of this island paradise.
I have been to the US, but not to the places described in the book. Nonetheless, I seemed to know them, as if the author had reached into my subconscious to find the memories that would make me ‘see’.
And there, in a nutshell is the problem with Darshan, it’s too good.
I felt all flushed with fever
Embarassed by the crowd
I felt he found my letters
And read each one out loud
I prayed that he would finish
But he just kept right on
Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
[Roberta Flack, Killing me Softly]
Everyone will find something different in Darshan, I know that, but at the heart of this amazing piece of fiction is a universal truth about families : we love each other, but the expectations we hide can never be fulfilled, and so, in the end love turns to pain.
As I sit here, trying to find words to describe what Darshan did to me, I’m inundated with memories of my own childhood. I tried so hard to do all the right things, to be what was expected of me, yet all I really wanted was to be accepted for who I really was – a dreamer.
I remember the day I presented my first printed book to my parents. It was a slim, user guide for a piece of software. I didn’t expect them to read it, or understand it, but it bore my name and I had laboured over every word. It meant so much to me.
My parents turned the book over in their hands. Then they put it on the table and said something like “that’s nice, dear”. Actually they would have said the Hungarian equivalent, but let’s not quibble.
They were bursting with pride when I graduated from University, I have the photos to prove it. But my little book meant nothing to them. They did not even realise they were meant to be proud of me.
There was no malice there, I know that, they simply didn’t understand. But that small book was the achievement of my life, up until then, and I expected them to feel something. To give me my due!
But you see, my parents wanted me to achieve something that would make money, and hence have tangible bragging rights – like a shiny Mercedes, or bright sparkly diamonds. All I gave them was a few bits of paper covered in ink.
To be fair, my parents were not shallow consumers, far from it. We arrived in Australia as refugees, literally wearing all our possessions on our backs. I saw them struggle to learn English in their 30’s, struggle to get a good job, buy a house, put me through school then university.
In my family, every step from destitute refugee to middle class citizen was signposted by dollar bills, but my little book was given away for free with the software! What value did it have? Worse, if their daughter could never make any money, how would she survive in this strange, harsh world?
In Australia there are lots of refugees, and even more immigrants, so my story is nothing unusual. Neither are the expectations placed on my generation. But the truth Darshan showed me was that every generation has expectations of the next, and those expectations are rarely met.
And so I sit here and I wonder what expectations I have placed on my daughter. Will she grow to resent me, despite my best efforts?
I want to believe that this generation communicates better than the one before because I want my daughter to be happy, but how do you ask those sorts of questions? Where do you even begin?
I’ve turned comments off for this one.
-hugs to you all-