The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai is a novel majorly about conflicts- political, social, economic and emotional conflicts in post colonial India. The book narrates the life of Sai, a girl living with her grandfather, a retired judge in Darjeeling and that of Biju, the son of their cook who is an illegal immigrant in US, running from one job to another to make the ends meet. The story happens against the background of Nepali uprising of eighties in Darjeeling. In the first pages we find a bunch of young men breaking into the house of Sai and stealing things. They feels the Anglicized, Cambridge educated, retired judge and his family are outsiders. The same feeling is reciprocated back also. The same mood prevails throughout the novel between different characters. And in many subplots we can see the trust placed on outsiders broken irreversibly making us to doubt about a collaborative existence.
Sai Is romantically involved with Gyan, her tutor. Gyan is a Gurkha descendent and he joins the uprising later. More than an ideological decision, this was for him a venue to bare his frustration and anger. Uprising causes irreversible socio political fissures between different classes and ethnicities. It develops a crack in their relation also and they decide to move apart. Sai was an orphan and send to live with her grandfather, who is a reclusive old man preferring solitude. The racial backwardness he experienced in Cambridge when he went to study there may be the starting point. This causes him to loath other Indians who still clung to their poor ways after he returned back and achieved success in India. His preference of solitude is told to be a result of strained relation with his wife whom he considered not worthy due to her backwardness. He is not even close to his granddaughter and considers her as a liability. Cook’s son Biju went to US illegally for making money and come out of poverty. But he ends up suffering and becomes one of the homeless in New York.
The Inheritance of Loss is the story of people who were destined to lose, as “certain moves made long ago had produced all of them.” The novel is lively in parts but depressing and serious otherwise. And most of the premise is obsolete after opening of Indian market to global market. Still I would recommend it for the insights made into the psyche of third world mentality.