What happens at a US consulate when a major earthquake takes place and a motley crowd of people are caved in for hours with no salvage in sight? This is what is described in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's "One Amazing Thing". How the nine people involved deal with such a situation and come out into the sunlight is the subject of this book.
The choice of a US consulate is significant. It highlights clearly the hierarchical gap between the few who possess the ability to decide and the faceless public at large who are at the receiving end of those decisions. The scene opens on a young girl, Uma, who wants to go to India to meet her parents. There are a few others like her also waiting their turns patiently. There is a woman at the reception regulating the candidate's entry into the inner sanctum where interviews are held. And then, suddenly it happens. The earthquake!
As the debris collects, the group of nine people struggle to find their bearings. They realize that first of all, despite major differences of lifestyle and opinion, they have to cooperate to survive. They pool together and share whatever meagre food and other resources they have. Bit by bit, their pretentious facades fade away as they attempt to support each other through the catastrophic turn of events. Finally, when time begins to hang heavy, they start, one by one to tell each other their own stories, the incidents and circumstances that have shaped their lives.
This kind of storytelling rips down the barriers erected by the conditions of their meeting even further. These stories are what make the book come alive, as one by one, the masks are stripped away, exposing the human inside with all his vulnerability. And, very appropriately, just as soon as the last story has been told, and there is no scope for further disclosures, the much longed for sound of rescue teams are heard.
This book has a message that is urgently needed to counter the kind of social problems we are facing today. Today, evil is "faceless", one never knows when one can be confronted by an explosive situation, arising out of the blue, and there are no guarantees for being at the right place and the right time. This book shows that one way to deal with one's fellow-beings when faced by extraordinarily complex situations is to communicate with the heart. I, personally like to think that the kind of communion with one's fellow beings as they truly are, is probably, the best way to shape shift the energy to a new reality where survival is guaranteed.
This book is an intricate work of art. I recommend it strongly.
the scene opens with an earthquake, reminds of salman rushdies novel; but that was in mexico; this is in usa where a lot of precautions are taken even when tornados happen; hence, the setting is not very appropriate. the story doesnt bring any particular strong message to the reader. in such a situation peole panic and are not in story telling mood; once we were caught in a flood in india, a small one while travelling in a train near Pune; everyone was panicky and no one told any story, all were asking if one can get out of train and reach nearby village or bus staion or just sit in the train for 5 hours as the train collector suggested , it was 4 am, no tea, no watr and no one told any story! Mangalam, normally is the name of a woman to a person like me hailing from the south, the author could have selected some other name instead of Mangalam say Gopalan to depict a male from the south.the auhtor had some good idea bt didnt suceed in projecting it.