Meet Janaki Venkatakrishnan, a musical prodigy sublimely gifted on the veena, and her younger sister, Mallika. Janaki escapes her father's plan for an arranged marriage, fleeing her village home for the bright lights of Bombay, scandalizing her father and the chatterbox, gossip-mongering women of the neighbourhood. She also leaves behind Mallika, who is forced to take care of their increasingly unhinged father. But ten years later, when Janaki announces her return and demands a meeting with Mallika, the buried past is once again excavated, and this time there is no escape from the old ghosts of loyalty and betrayal. In a span of seven days, memories and misgivings, innocence and wisdom, everyday truths and familial secrets are laid bare as the two sisters prepare to face each other - and everything about their childhood - once and for all.
In their shared memories, we meet Thathappa, their cinema-owner grandfather, a man of spiritual extremes; Gayatri Chitti, the girls' cosmetics-addict aunt, who is scheming to take their dead mother's place; Asgar, the Bollywood megastar, and Zubeida, his wheelchair-bound wife; Salima Sikri, a feminist editor, poised and ready for the scoop of the year - The Silent Raga is a moving and ambitious debut novel. In prose that resembles the rhythms and progression of a raga, Ameen Merchant weaves a finely wrought story about the traditions that bind us and the sacrifices we must make along the road to our own individual destinies. Intensely imagined, the novel shines an honest and unsparing light on family matters, only to reveal the tug and pull of bloodlines and the infinite power of one healing word: Love.
Ameen Merchant lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he is working on his next novel and programming a new Bollywood audio channel for the CBC. The Silent Raga is his first novel. Ameen Merchant has been shortlisted for The Commonwealth Writer's Award for the book.