9780676972252

The Hero's Walk

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780676972252

  • ISBN10:

    067697225X

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2000-05-01
  • Publisher: Random House of Canada Ltd

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Summary

After the release of Anita Rau Badami's critically acclaimed first novel,Tamarind Mem, it was evident a promising new talent had joined the Canadian literary community. Her dazzling literary follow-up isThe Hero's Walk, a novel teeming with the author's trademark tumble of the haphazard beauty, wreckage and folly of ordinary lives. Set in the dusty seaside town of Toturpuram on the Bay of Bengal,The Hero's Walktraces the terrain of family and forgiveness through the lives of an exuberant cast of characters bewildered by the rapid pace of change in today's India. Each member of the Rao family pits his or her chance at personal fulfillment against the conventions of a crumbling caste and class system. Anita Rau Badami explains that "The Hero's Walkis a novel about so many things: loss, disappointment, choices and the importance of coming to terms with yourself and the circumstances of your life without losing the dignity embedded in all of us. At one level it is about heroism - not the hero of the classic epic, those enormous god-sized heroes - but my fascination with the day-to-day heroes and the heroism that's needed to survive all the unexpected disasters and pitfalls of life."

Author Biography

Born in the eastern town of Rourkela, Badami spent her childhood drifting around India as her father, a mechanical engineer and train designer, was transferred frequently. Her family moved at least eight times before she was twenty. Since her parents both spoke different Indian dialects, English was the bridging language for the family. (Badami's second language is Hindi.) The convent nuns who took care of her schooling were not always a receptive audience for Badami's budding literary talents. "Dear child," one of her teachers commented in response to a writing assignment, "what big lies you tell. Please ask your mother to see me." At school the nuns taught Greek and Roman myths, and even Celtic tales. "The only mythology I don't remember learning in school was Hindu mythology," Anita recalls.

Excerpts

It was dusk by the time they got a bus to the beach. They made their way to the same secluded spot at which they had scattered Maya's ashes. The tide was coming in, curling waves lapped against their feet, and seagulls swooped and pecked at drying seaweed left on the sand. Further down, pariah dogs leapt at an upturned boat, trying to get at something dangling from the high side. Sripathi walked across the wet, squelching sand until he reached the water. With a sense of déjà-vu, he emptied the ashes and watched as they mingled with the waves. Poor Ammayya, what a long, unresolved life she had lived, he thought regretfully.He went back to the cluster of mossy rocks where he had left Arun and sat down beside his son. They stayed there until the moon appeared, a silver semicircle ringed with concentric rainbow light. It would be sunny tomorrow. In the thick darkness the sea was luminous, a body of motion, living, mysterious, beautiful."You go home if you want to, Appu," said Arun, his arms locked around his raised knees on which he rested his chin. "I want to watch the turtles coming in.""How do you know that they will be here today?""A few arrived yesterday and usually the rest follow soon after.""I'll stay with you," said Sripathi after a moment's hesitation. He had lived all his life beside this same sea, and he had never spent an entire night watching it as it poured over the sand and sucked away, leaving a wavering lace of froth that it retrieved almost immediately.The moon rose higher in the sky, the beach emptied slowly, and one by one the last of the vendors turned off their Petromax lanterns and left. Now all they could hear was the susurrating of the wind in the brief stand of palm trees behind them. Suddenly, out of the sea, a dark form detached itself and staggered slowly up the damp sand. And another and another. Dozens of them. No, scores. It seemed to Sripathi that the beach itself had risen up and was rippling away from the water."Can you see them?" whispered Arun. As if the turtles would be scared off by his voice when they carried the thunder of ancient waters in their small, swivelling heads.They poured across the sand, wobbling and swaying, a humpbacked, crawling army drawn by some distant call to the shore on which they were born fifty, one hundred, two hundred years ago, to give birth to another generation. Across the water line they surged, each an olive-green dune in slow motion, until they were well out of reach of the waves. They stopped one by one and began to dig cradles for their eggs-their thick stubby hind legs powerful pistons spraying sand into the air-grunting and murmuring, moaning and sighing as they squatted over the holes and dropped their precious cargo.Arun leaned over and whispered, "Each of them lays at least a hundred to two hundred eggs, Appu."Sripathi nodded, too moved to comment. How many millennia had this been going on? he wondered, humbled by the sight of something that had started long before humans had been imagined into creation by Brahma, and had survived the voracious appetite of those same humans. In the long continuum of turtle life, humans were merely dots.
Soon the turtles were done and began to churn up the sand again, covering the holes, tamping them down tight, with slow, deliberate movements. And then the swaying trudge back to the gleaming sea. Sweeping their hind legs to erase every trace of their arrival, as meticulous as spies in foreign lands."See how cunning they are," whispered Arun again. "They are making sure predators don't find their nests by following their footprints."The last of the turtles disappeared into the waters as silently as they had arrived. They would never see their babies hatch, would not return for one full year to lay another batch of eggs at the edge of the sea that had been there longer than even they had. Their young might live or die. The eggs they left with so much care might yield another generation of turtles-or not. Sripathi thought about the chanciness of existence, the beauty and the hope and the loss that always accompanied life, and felt a boulder roll slowly off his heart.

(c) 2000 by Anita Rau Badami

Excerpted from The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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