On the night of December 3, 1984, Anjali waits for her army officer husband to pick her up at the train station in Bhopal, India. In an instant, her world changes forever. Her anger at his being late turns to horror when a catastrophic gas leak poisons the city air. Anjali miraculously survives. Her marriage does not.
A smart, successful schoolteacher, Anjali is now remarried to Sandeep, a loving and stable professor. Their lives would be nearly perfect, if not for their young sonís declining health. But when Anjaliís first husband suddenly reappears in her life, she is thrown back to the troubling days of their marriage with a force that impacts everyone around her.
Her first husbandís return brings back all the uncertainty Anjali thought time and conviction had healedĖabout her decision to divorce, and about her place in a society that views her as scandalous for having walked away from her arranged marriage. As events unfold, feelings she had guarded like gold begin to leak away from her, spreading out into the world and challenging her once firm beliefs.
Rich in insight into Indian culture and psychology, A Breath of Fresh Air resonates with meaning and the abiding power of love. In a landscape as intriguing as it is unfamiliar, Anjaliís struggles to reconcile the roles of wife and ex-wife, working woman and mother, illuminate both the fascinating duality of the modern Indian woman and the difficult choices all women must make.
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"A Breath of Fresh Air" is a fast and fascinating read. -- United Press International
A Breath of Fresh Air is a gift for all of us in these complicated times. -- Nancy Thayer, author of Custody
[An] accomplished debut novel, Malladi depicts believable characters...with grace and sensitivity, passion and pride. -- Booklist
I was nine years old when my father, who was then a Major in the Indian Army, was posted in Bhopal, India. It was 1984 and the last half of the year showed me that the world was divided in the name of religion and made me come to terms with the finality of death.
Two incidents that took place in 1984 will forever be embossed in my memory: the death of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
When Indira Gandhi died, for the first time I was faced with death. Most of my grandparents had all passed away before I had been born; only my paternal grandmother was alive. No one who was close to me had died and when Mrs. Gandhi passed away, I felt like someone I knew had gone away. It had nothing to do with politics, after all, what does a nine year old know about such matters, my devastation arose from losing someone who had been a constant in my little life. I distinctly remember watching her funeral and through out the ceremony I wished and hoped that they had made a mistake and she was actually alive.
In the aftermath of her death, the country went into mourning and chaos. The ensuing riots didn't leave anyone uninvolved. That was the first time I came face to face with the idea of a war between religions. What had seemed inconceivable to me--to fight in the name of religion--was happening and I struggled with trying to understand this. After all, my entire life, I had played and studied with children of all religions, caste and gender. Everyday I pledged my allegiance to my country at the school morning assembly and vowed that I would not discriminate in the name of religion.
Even before I could recover from Mrs. Gandhi's assassination, the night of December 3, 1984 brought with it more carnage and tragedy. We were having our half-yearly exams and I remember desperately memorizing something for a Sanskrit exam in the school bus. When I heard that there had been an explosion in the railway station and that all doctors (this came from children whose father's were doctors in the army) had been called away in the middle of the night, I was relieved. There probably wouldn't be an exam. We could go back home. It was days before I understood what had happened and how lucky we had all been.
The Army Center where we lived was just a few kilometers away from the Union Carbide plant. It was the wind, blowing in another direction that saved our lives.
For years I wanted to tell the story of that year, to convey what had happened without losing the small picture. I wanted to tell the story of people who were affected by what happened, how the human spirit is strong and no matter what is thrown our way, we survive.
A Breath of Fresh Air came to me years later when I was living in Utah, thousands of miles away in time and geography. I already knew who Anjali was, had known for several years but I didn't know who would tell her story or what her story would be. Slowly, it unraveled and I was caught up in her life and the story I wanted to tell found a voice.
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Book Description Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0143029924