Where the sun will rise tomorrow :Rashi Rohatgi
The struggle between the Indian subcontinent to free itself from British imperial rule and the Japanese victory over the Russians is at the heart of this novel. Throughout this novel we learn about the antagonism between Muslim and Hindu as take the journey back to 1905 and enter Chadrapur, India and hear the voices of two young girls, Leela and Maya each seeking freedom, careers and although sisters in their own way. Privacy is not easy and proper rules of engagement in public between young men and women are strictly adhered to and parents arrange and must approve matches between young people. Education is at the root of this novel and Maya and Leela must wear homespun to prove to the British that they will not be oppressed and will stand up for their individuality and rights. Leela is betrothed to Nash and their encounters and discussions observed and monitored by both sets of parents. Nash wants to deal with his life by having Leela circulate a petition amongst her college classmates to desegregate the girls’ school in Chadrapur. Apprehensive at first and reminds herself that the old ways are not bad, her rebel sister has other ideas in mind as she meets Hassan whose sister is rich, often belittling to both her and Leela yet claiming she wants to work with them on their course curriculum. But, Leela won’t share unless she signs the petition.
Meetings among their families are quite difficult at times as Nash’s father demands certain expectations from his son while his mother prefers that Leela drops out of school after they are married her father disagrees. Customs, rituals and places that interest all three are focused on and described so that we get to know this country firsthand and enjoy the different foods and drinks described wondering at times exactly what some of them are or taste like. Women like Zainab practice Purdah which is living in a separate room or behind a curtain and often wearing enveloping clothing to stay out of sight of men or strangers.
Nash’s father reminds him that he will work toward his engineering degree , Leela will finish her teacher training and they will have more time to focus on family when this is done. His mother says in response: Both of you finish up your school it’s time for you to grow up. Zainab is a major force in birth sisters lives but why do they constantly agree to see her even though her ideals are far different than theirs.
Each person has his/her own goals that differ from the others. Leela even breaks the rules of priority at times to seek out Nash almost afraid of losing him while Maya is in her own journey as she’s photographed by Hassan using his new camera, Zainab is thinking about marriage and each set of family has their own focus for their futures.
Even the last day of school brings controversy as Leela wants to create a spark in her teacher just once talking about desegregation. Wanting to talk with the Directorate about it even brings varied opinions. Maya wants a proper Hindu wedding and the preparations and what’s involved might be beyond her reach.
A book about culture, traditions, balance , change, political ideologies and a younger society that wants to break away on their own as both sisters pursue their vows goals and journeys, but when will they wind up. Maya has placement and Leela has yet to decide her direction but hoping that the petition will be signed by many and spur change.
Political strife, freedoms, the ability to speak out as they want, desegregation, women’s rights, two sisters so different yet in some respects oddly the same. Leela only wanting to please Nash yet wanting her own voice to be heard. When the Directorate is slated to speak to the crown what happens changes the complexion of her life and that of her sister, Maya who only wants what is right for her and at times not look at what her sister has claimed to have sacrificed for her.
Two separate faiths, two separate ideologies and then Leela learns of something Nash is about to do in order to take matters into his own hand and possibly cause a riot. Family discord, the right to your own choices and then Lord Curzon speaks and what Leela does will destroy lives at the risk of taking a stand.
Where will she wind up? What about the two weddings will they happen? What about her father? If she leaves what memories will she have of Chandrapur and what will Chandrapur recall about her?
Will their society ever be a desegregated revolutionary society? Will they follow Gandhi’s ways? Who was behind the bomb that exploded and took lives? Was it justified? Will Nash return and will he marry Leela? What about their parents? Maya and Hassan are bent on being together will she follow suit and become a photographer, or will there be a surprise that no one will expect? From Zainab’s letter: When the riots end and when Bengal is again united and India is free, people will look back on the day I will see a classmate, a friend, who by the time we are free will live in a city full of people who see her Asiatic attire, so outnumbered, no backward and worthy of what violet feelings it may engender and who may perhaps the, know how I feel.
A picture speaks a thousand words and a bond is formed between Leela and Zainab. Will they ever be truly free? Maya and Hassan will have nikah or an Islamic law marriage or marriage contract if it is mean to be. What about Nash and Leela and will she ever marry and be free? Author Rashi Rohatgi takes us to many places within India, others traveling to Japan, cultures that are different, foods that we might never have heard of and customs that are traditions and traditional that both Muslims and Hindus must follow. What about Zainab will she truly find what she wants if she remarries? When the final scenes are created and they two sisters are on their way Where will the Rise Tomorrow? On Leela’s destination, Maya’s or somewhere else? Freedom comes at a delicate price for all three and their nations!
Fran Lewis Just reviews