Title: The House of Subadar
Author: Vijay Medtia
Release Date: April 1, 2007
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
After serving an eight year sentence for murdering a man who threatened to violate his mother, Veer Subadar is out on parole. Along with his friend Mohan, he sets off to Punjab to reunite with his family. Upon arriving, Veer learns that his family has fallen on hard times and is ready to leave for Bombay in order to find work.
I’m always on the lookout for new books about South Asia, so when Vijay Medtia contacted me about reviewing his debut novel, I was more than eager to give it a try.
In The House of Subadar, Medtia beautifully displays both the highest hopes and the deepest despair of the Subadar family, and how both emotions can coexist side by side. The family is desperate to find work, and find some peace, but both seem to be lacking in modern-day India. Through the story of this one family, the reader begins to understand more about the plight of rural citizens of India, and what urban flight is doing to the country.
There is also a lot of violence present in The House of Subadar, though it is never gratuitous. India is a young country with real stability problems, especially when it comes to relations between Muslims and Hindus. These issues are too deep to delve into, and Medtia doesn’t really address the source of the problem in the book, but he doesn’t need to. By portraying the tensions without explaining where they come from, he successfully depicts how it’s just become a way of life in India. There’s no reason for the people to analyze the situation because that’s how it’s been as long as anyone can remember.
Medtia’s prose is crisp and precise, and really serves to highlight the desperate atmosphere of the novel. Just as there is no work, there is also no room for any extra words. That doesn’t mean that this is a spare novel though; Medtia’s descriptions are bold and vivid, bringing India to life for the reader.
There’s a lot more I could discuss about The House of Subadar – the importance of family, the customs it portrays, the character development – but I’ll stop myself here. It’s a well-written, engaging debut novel that anyone interested in cultural tales would enjoy.