“A haunting tale of family, commitment, love…and being true to yourself.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
This is a story that resonates with Indian sensibilities, set in a courtyard surrounded by the homes of an extended family. A tale of young love and family honour which manages not to be tragic in the expected way.
Behrooz is brought to the yard by Father Khalil who is devout and saintly and against all odds he becomes involved with his guardian’s willful daughter Maya. The extended family is suspicious of this boy who has no known past but regardless of their disapproval Father Khalid and Mother Dianne bring him up as a member of their family.
Adolescents being what they are Behrooz and Maya the two loners drift together and Father Khalid’s brothers are outraged that the girl is being defiled by an outsider. Both of them deny the feeling that they have for each other and the situation spins to the point of being intolerable.
The ingredients are typical and one can see them forming part of a Bollywood plot – Maya runs away to England and loses herself in graduation and artistry. Berooz is shattered but marries his devout girlfriend and has two children. A death in the yard brings Maya and Berooz into contact again. However, Behrooz is committed to his sense of family so instead of following the tried and tested Bollywood path of romance he moves away from the yard with his family. Behrooz’s background is never quite solved as would have been the case in a true romance but here it is a matter of Father Khalid’s generous heart. Maya’s dithering is deftly portrayed and evils of joint family life with its infighting finally comes to the fore. There is the ominous cloud of Islamic extremism threatening to overpower all Maya’s father’s benevolence, combined with family jealousies. Eniath points out that Islam is not a violent religion to add a note of modern day relevance to her story even though ultimately this is a story of love rather than religion.
Perhaps the ending is a little too good to be true – perhaps it required more drama or Eniath wanted to add a twist to the usual young folks’ love story. If it comes to that, even Father Khalid seems too saintly to be a mere upholsterer and one wonders how he and his wife raised a Maya and Sara is the Sati-Savitri lauded in Hindi films. But those are in the end unimportant questions. In the end the book is about loyalty to family and the fact that love needs some sanctioned help to triumph.
What makes The Yard different is the fact that the location is Trinidad and the family while keeping some links with Indian culture has adapted to local ways. The masjiid in the yard is called the Calcutta Masjid because the inhabitants want to keep some links with East India and their motherland. The woman wear saris and spread bright bolsters out on ceremonial occasions. Pholouries are sold on the street. All this turns the reader into an outsider looking at a world that seems familiar but is not quite that.
Added 14th May 2016