By Lisa M. Comento
You know those novels that take you away from your daily life as the turning of each page whisks you further into another world or even country with different customs? Maybe the characters pray to different Gods or eat different foods? The countryside is described with such intricate detail you can smell the morning dew on the roses that line the side of the house. The stories that tug at your heartstrings as you find yourself relating to aspects of the main character.
“Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken” by Monica Bhide was that type of book for me. There were nights my eye lids fought to stay open as the hour reached midnight each night. Released late summer 2016, this novel is destined to become a bestseller.
Award-winning writer, poet, storyteller, and educator, Monica Bhide, has the ability to tell stories with effortless beauty. The way in which she weaves each character’s personality and their interactions with one another. The depth of soul when telling about their childhood or the struggles they endured. Her words are like watching a movie before your eyes that create each scene; the colors, smells and tastes. She is the female version of Paulo Coelho who seamlessly intertwines dynamic characters with an inspiring message.
The story takes place at an old teaching monastery called Karma Norba Ling located outside New Delhi. Eshaan Veer Singh is a natural chef in the kitchen with a heart of pure gold. He will stop at nothing to make his dream of building a kitchen for the homeless a reality. The death of his mother still haunts him yet pushes him to fulfill his dream of ensuring that no one suffers from starvation. Having grown up in a monastery where the monks in a sense adopted him after his mother’s tragic death, he learned early-on the value of service.
Radio Rani’s positive frequency supports Eshaan on a daily basis. Her calm demeanor easing his inner demons along with her ability to garden both help to feed his dream. The feisty Loveleen lives near the monastery and is like the older sister Eshaan never had. Together they create a foundation along with other extraordinary characters who cheer him on to follow his dream.
Eshaan finds solace in writing poetry as much as cooking in his kitchen. Being a poet myself, I loved how Monica incorporated his poems throughout the story. His deep words help you understand Eshaan’s inner thoughts allowing you to feel a more human connection.
The hopeless romantic in me reveled in the love story between Eshaan and Kitt. I loved the surprises and humor sprinkled throughout the book including the stories behind what inspired Monica Bhide to write “Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken” in the first place.
One of many favorite excerpts of mine, “She [Kitt] had longed for him in the dark nights, in the bright days, in crowds, and when she was alone. She slept with his name on her lips, his face in her dreams. She woke to his smell, that haunting scent of his itar that seemed to have taken a root in her spirit. And yet, here she was, getting ready to marry another man.”
Opportunity knocks when Eshaan has the chance to be a contestant on a local cooking show. Eshaan is more than a chef or the ideal best friend; he epitomizes perseverance through adversity. Life will always throw us lemons but it is what we do with those lemons that defines our strength of character. To not let the sourness of our struggles along the way hold us down but to catch each lemon and turn them into sweet new dish.
Monica does a brilliant job of allowing the reader to imagine what each character looks like without describing their features in detail. She brings together old traditions with today’s modern advances from technology to human equality. I loved the text exchanges between the characters that relate to millions these days.
Does Romeo get his Juliet or does life have other plans for each of them? Does Eshaan win the cooking show?
I not only recommend you buy “Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken” to read yourself but I suggest you give it as a gift. This story needs to be read, shared and hopefully a vehicle to help inspire others to never give up on their dream.