'Sastra' front cover

"This is a love story of an unusual, even rare beauty."

Sunday Gleaner.

"Sastra is a beautiful, moving and inspiring novel created by a gifted, sensitive and intelligent writer."

The Sunday Guardian.

"I am reminded of E.M. Forster, the same carefully crafted seemingly matter of fact style which can unexpectedly rise through image and phrase to the intensity of poetry."


Lloyd Searwar, The Mirror, Guyana.

"This is a beautiful, moving and inspiring novel... created by a gifted, sensitive and intelligent writer. It is a mature piece of fiction which is certain to withstand the passage of time or the limitation of setting... It is a novel of the beauty and and the terror of life itself. It is a novel about love, intense love which crashes the boundaries of conventional reason. It is a novel of pain, loss and anguish which threaten to crush the human spirit. It is a novel of change and of coming to grips with the relentless inevitability of change. It is a novel of the triumph of the individual will."

Dr Bhoe Tewarie, Principal and former Head, Department of English, St Augustine,
University of the West Indies.

"At its considerable best Sastra is impressive work. It recognizes the value of community, its conventions and ceremonies, and is a record of gradual change. It seems to acknowledge the problematic workings of fate. It celebrates emotional honesty and the rewards of responsible choice."

Mervyn Morris, Reader in English Literature, University of the West Indies.

"There is poetry in this tale. Its delicate shadings of generational relationships give its character strength and durability. It is resilient seeking betterment through individual and collective endeavour. The novel is a page from Caribbean Indian life and a cameo of the larger contemporary world."

India Weekly, London.

"To enter the world of Sastra, is to enter a world whose pace is controlled by custom, ritual and ceremony, a world where the delicate play of head and eyes and shoulders can express the strongest emotions, where passion can declare itself without the loss of modesty; a world wrapped in manners that are not the exterior polish of those with social skills but the outflow of natural grace, and delicate feeling. It is like walking at night on the grounds at Divali Nagar, and knowing there is no danger in the crowd, no evil in the air. And feeling that you are part of something very abstract and very physically there."

Professor Kenneth Ramchand, University of the West Indies, writing from Colgate University U.S.A.

"A creative work like Sastra can be read at several levels. One can read it for the love story. Or one might be sensitive to the backdrop to the novel namely the ethnic cultural divisions in the Trinidad society in the 1950s. Or one can read it as a depiction of the ancient struggle between fate and individual choice."

Lloyd Searwar, The Mirror, Guyana.

"Lakshmi Persaud has given us the key with which to unlock a window upon Trinidadian-Indian life which has hitherto remained closed. It is a fascinating discovery."

Pamela Beshoff, Writer and Journalist, Weekly Gleaner.

"a ‘song of love and life and hope’ and a powerful expression of the strength and will of the free Caribbean woman."

Chris Searle, Morning Star.

Sastra

Lakshmi Persaud's second novel Sastra (Peepal Tree 1993) is a moving and inspiring piece of fiction about cultural change in colonial Trinidad.

Set in Trinidad in the 1950s, Sastra is a tender love story, a rich evocation of the village world and a memorable portrayal of a brave young woman who never tries to evade or complain about the consequences of her choice.

At birth, Sastra is offered two possible karmas, one of prosperous security if she keeps to the well-tried path, the other of mixed joy and misery if she should attempt to 'fly'. Sastra has to choose between the traditional, collective Hindu society of her parents and the world of individual destinies and responsibilities to which her generation is increasingly drawn.

Extracts

"kalownjee slowly done in massala, silky soft dhalpuris that bathed you with the warmth of jeera and dhal and pepper when, with the help of your fingers, the enclosed warm air bursts out. Baigan chokha - melongene stuffed with garlic and pepper and onions and grilled; delicious shataigne curried lightly and gently, with firm, sweet-smelling garden tomatoes. Dhal chaunkayed with jeera, garlic, onions, sweet and hot peppers; spinach steam-fried in a little butter and garden peas; followed by gulab jamun in warm cardamom syrup, and rasmela sprinkled with roasted pistachio nuts."

...............................

"When the long summer evenings dispersed warmth and light and colour far and wide, they would together sit in the park, beside the lake, on a weathered bench in quiet alcoves, wreathed in green and freshly turning yellows, and stroll side by side each comforting the other, just by being there. When they strolled past shop windows, and saw each other’s gentle face imprisoned in the glass, catching a glimpse of each other’s longings caught unguarded, they would move on and say some idle word to cover that revelation."

...............................

" 'There was one thing though.'Shakuntala pulled her ornhi closer around her for comfort. Parvatee sensed that something important was about to be disclosed.

'They had wedding cake,' she whispered.

'Was it good?'

Parvatee had misinterpreted the tone, the softer sound, the lower key, had overlooked the wider spheres embraced by Shakuntala's orthodoxy, and in an effort to mitigate her error of judgement said:

'The cherry brandy was smelling, na?'

'A good-looking girl came round, a neighbour's daughter I think it was, with a tray. "Tantie, try the wedding cake," she said. Is this an orthodox Hindu wedding? This passed through my mind, I was very upset, Parvatee, but didn't want to cause any dissension, so I said, "Beti after all that good good wedding food? A little later".'

'It is becoming fashionable to serve wedding cake, Shakuntala.'

'Parvatee, today - eggs; tomorrow what? Wine? Fried chicken? Who started all this at Hindu weddings? That's what I want to know!'

'What must have happened, Shakuntala, is, you invite a few Christians to a Hindu wedding and they come expecting wine and cake,' she lowered her voice and her eyes widened, 'I hear they have wine in their church too, would you believe it?' "