Book Review: There, Where the Pepper Grows

 Bem Le Hunte, There, Where the Pepper Grows, (HarperCollins, 2005) is a compelling read, tracing the story told by protagonist Benjamin, a Polish Jew who, fleeing Nazi occupation with wife and childhood sweetheart (circumstances of wartime survival inform us these are not the same person), ends up in Calcutta. Here, with attendant complications, they make their life together. Benjamin is well on in years as he tells his story; it is post 9/11, and his life experiences that embrace – up close and personal – the horrors of World War II, the partitioning of India and Pakistan and the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Centre well qualify him to reflect on the counter-balance of interfaith harmony at a grass-roots level. His story is not so fanciful when one considers that the author, born in Calcutta (Kolkata), bases her characters on real situations and events. It was the contemporary circumstance of Australia’s stance on mandatory detention for asylum seekers that prompted the writing of this story, however. In this context, it is a great compliment to India and a sobering rebuke to more well-off countries who, in recent times, have responded with fear driven mean-spiritedness when faced with refugees seeking a safe home.

Published by wonderingpilgrim

Not really retired but reshaped and reshaping. Now a pilgrim at large ready to engage with what each day brings.

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