Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: "A Little Distillery in Nowgong" by Ashok Mathur

A Little Distillery in Nowgong is the story of three generations of the Khargat family, told from the point of view of a child not yet born. It begins with the birth of Jamshed. As a young child Jamshed does something that is different from other small children his age: he "goes right". This going right is mysterious to anyone watching the young child; Jamshed will suddenly stop what he is doing and look to the right for an undetermined period of time. What Jamshed is doing is having a conversation with a being only identified to him as "Sunny", who says that he is Jamshed's unborn grandchild. Jamshed grows older and falls in love with Parvin, even though it is Sunny who leads him to her initially. Jamshed and Parvin lose two male children while they are still in infancy, and are thrilled when they are finally able to conceive and give birth to a daughter, Piroja. Piroja is Sunny's intended mother (he continues to converse with Jamshed, Parvin, and even Piroja on occasion). Piroja grows and decides to train to become a nurse and when she meets a Hindu and falls in love, she decides to keep their marriage a secret from her parents, who will be devastated. Piroja's mother dies before Piroja is able to confess her secret, and it is her father who must come to terms with having a Hindu for a son-in-law. Finally Piroja decides to have a child, a daughter named Sunila, who is headstrong and representative of the progress that the Khargat's have made as a family.

I really enjoyed this book, following three generations of the headstrong and intelligent Khargats. The voice of Sunny ties it all together; he is the glue that holds the Khargat's together and offers sound advice during difficult times. This is the story about what it means to be a family. It is also the story of how people change and grow through generations: something that was unacceptable at the time of the father may be grudgingly accepted at the time of the daughter and welcomed at the time of the granddaughter. This story also seemed to be a reflection on acceptance: accepting people for who they are and accepting that change does happen for a reason. The book is a rather large one, although not at any point is it slow going. All of the pieces are relavant to the big picture and absolutely necessary. In addition each individual chapter is short, making it suitable for someone who only has a short period of time to read. My only complaint about the book would be the conclusion, and that is because for me it left too many questions unanswered. I felt that this was the point of the author, to allow the reader to drawn their own conclusions, however I would have liked a more concrete ending. This ending alone should not deter one from reading this book; it was an interesting commentary on the Parsi culture as well as a reflection on what it means to be a family.

Thank-you to the Arsenal Pulp Press for this review copy! You can visit this book's website at


  1. Looks good, thanks for the great review!

  2. at first when you said it was narrated by the unborn child I was a bit skeptical, but by the end of the review, I thought it sounded excellent!

  3. June 23, 1985 – Air India Flight 182, a Boeing 747, is bombed by Sikh extremists. It crashes into the ocean near Ireland, killing all 329 people on board.