Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Book Review: 'Lifewalla' by Nina Joshi Ramsey

British author Nina Joshi Ramsey, born in London, is the daughter of itinerant migrant parents from British India who settled in Kenya where Nina lived until a military coup (recorded by Nina) forced her family to return to London. Her undergraduate training and professional experience began in International Technology Management in London’s Financial District. After completing an MA in Creative Writing she completed a Psychology Postgraduate Diploma, which influences her work and life, including Stress Management and Coaching practice. Her debut novel, LiIFEWALLA, was inspired by the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster. The UK edition of the book raises funds for survivor clinics in Bhopal. She has also been successful in writing plays both for the stage and the screen. In addition to this busy career, Nina has travelled to over 40 countries for pleasure and work, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. She has worked in city slums and skyscrapers, trained male prisoners and desert villagers, managed global managers and teamed up with underprivileged girls. She was a digital volunteer co-coordinating rescue efforts for those stranded in the Langtang valley during the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. Her writing is informed by the sum of her experiences.

Nina Joshi Ramsey’s humanitarian persona is obvious in the opening of her Acknowledgements – ‘My deep regard for those affected by disasters and trauma all over the world. For enduring the fragility and challenges of life. For their everyday regrouping to summon up strength and resilience. For climbing overwhelming personal mountains, whilst in the midst, allowing lightness and grace for others too. This book is inspired by them.’

Nina’s prose is eloquent and informed and form the opening paragraph of her book it is obvious we are in the presences of a very skilled and compassionate writer – ‘The bus was rumbling fast towards Jantapur when a hand brushed down the side of Dilkhush’s waist and pinched her left buttock. A flush of heat raced through her body. Her throat tightened. She knew who the culprit was. That arse of a donkey had even winked at her after getting on the bus. He needed a good tight slap. But instead, Dilkhush clenched her jaw and tugged her white sari tighter around herself. Sauntering down the aisle in his leather jacket, the pervert had looked her up and down and bitten his lower lip as if playing a first-class film hero. More like third-class villain. He had manoeuvred himself to stand behind her, bumping into her whenever the bus lurched. Throughout the journey, she had wanted to teach him a lesson, even lift him off the ground by his hair, arms, or legs, and spin him above her head before hurtling him to a distant planet.’

The synopsis distills the novel well: ‘Dilkhush returns to the hometown where a gas disaster killed thousands. Those in charge at the time are back. She is sent there to give and get forgiveness, but vengeance surfaces. From the moment she gets off the bus, the past rushes in, and a mysterious chain of events unravels. Allies emerge, including a wise old owl, a master of bargains, a disaster entrepreneur, and an enigmatic supporter. But a powerful nemesis also appears. Dilkhush scours the depths of her soul for answers. How is she to know that the present would rush at her with startling revelations and brutal secrets? Yet, these could also liberate her for a rebirth. ‘An unforgettable portrait of loss and pain, this is a deeply moving story of the humanity that could be experienced in a family of strangers. A story of the instinct to grapple for a child's survival, with indestructible hope.’

LIFEWALLA makes a burning impression on our perception of the world and the disasters and ability of people to survive such life threatening experiences. It is a profound book and makes an indelible mark on our hearts. Nina Joshi Ramsey is an important new voice on the literary scene, Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, December 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.