Passion Flower

Mistry has the inspired storyteller’s knack of taking up a small detail in the large canvas of a city — most often Mumbai — that he pinpoints for us with the skill of a documentary photographer. By taking random images of the panorama of life and making us care enough for the transient moment, he suggests that it may also create is own meaning. These glimpses may be fractured; they may be highly flawed narratives, as in both these collections of life stories. They speak of different types of obsessive attachments — or derangements, as he calls them — but they also fill us with momentary glimpses into the profligacy of such lives. Mistry’s characters can swirl around their families; burn and destroy those closest to them with a ferocity that creates its own sense of a terrible beauty.

So it is with the cover. It’s an illustration by Beth Phillip, an artistic rendering half botanical, half a pattern composed into a Victorian cartouche and merchandised into a selling cover by Bena Sareen. A branching tendril of the white starry flowers with their crown of thorns and stigmata curls across the black satin background. Their rich glossy palm-ate leaves clutch outwards in search of the Sun, in the darkness of a tropical forest. The artist has placed one pendant berry in coral hanging from a calyx of dry gold on a curving wire stem with three pearls dangling at the lower tip.

You cannot stop looking at it, or reaching out to touch it. For it evokes not just the convoluted arrangement of the passion flower itself, with its symbolic imagery to the Passion of Christ, but brings memories of the old Parsi matrons sallying forth wearing just the same type of shiny Chinese silk with the rich embroidery that was a legacy of the China trade that their husbands undertook.

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