Bird in a Banyan Tree by Bina Ramani

Title-Bird in a Banyan Tree:My Story
Publisher-Rupa and Co
Price-500 INR
Source-Review Copy via a-lotofpages

     (Bird in a Banyan Tree is entrepreneur-turned-socialite Bina Ramani's autobiography.The book,published by Rupa is also her first released work as an author)
                 Reviewing an autobiography is no easy task.The challenges are multiple.There is always the risk of the review inadvertently turning to an 'opinion' on the author's life/personality/vital decisions taken in his/her life instead of being an un-biased view on the work which he/she has written.If the job is to review a memoir written by someone who was even hailed as the greatest socialite after Maharani Gayathri Devi,the task becomes all the more difficult.So when I first got a chance to review 'Bird in a Banyan Tree',I was a bit apprehensive.But the bibliophile in me couldn't resist the urge to go through the book which made me accept the offer and I'm here reviewing this memoir written by Bina Ramani-the 'Bina' of Binatone.
                  Bina starts off by describing her childhood days in Dadar and Breach Candy.She eloquently writes about her first crush,'Nari' and proceeds to talk about her loving father and her caring,generous Mama who used o remind her of a Banyan Tree which extends it's sturdy,sacred root branches in every direction,providing shelter,food and comfort to all.By the end of the second chapter,we get to know about the crushing blow to her self-esteem when she was forbidden to attend the athletic training camp as her parents felt her wearing shorts and going to the training camps with other boys and girls as in-appropriate.
                   The Memoir also gives insight into her relationship with the Kapoor family of Bollywood,especially the flamboyant Shammi Kapoor.
                   Bina's prose is livid and descriptive.The writer has had the foresight to edit out the irrelevant incidents and the unnecessary details from the final draft of the book and I must say that it has helped this work tremendously.The Memoir manages to hold the reader's attention for most part and there is always a sense of anticipation among the reader regarding what is going to happen next in 'her story'.One thing which I particularly liked about her writing is that at no point in the book,Bina has made a deliberate attempt to glorify or portray herself as an epitome of all virtues.On the other hand,she has tried to be as honest as possible which makes her brave enough to accept that her penchant for dressing differently for every party had sometimes bordered on the obsessive.The Beena we get to know through the book is very much like each one of us-vulnerable and often naive. Likewise,it's heartening to realise that the author is someone who has no qualms in admitting how different she was from her sister Pushpa who was the embodiment of the obedient,conservative daughter that each parent would crave for.There is also the candid admission of her embarassement of being portrayed as 'Shammi's new crush' by the gossip hungry media.
                      It would be grossly inappropriate to call this work as Bina Ramani's life story for it's definitely much more than that.The book is not only about Bina.It's also about the other persons who have strongly influenced her or have played significant roles in her journey of life.For instance,the book reveals the hitherto unknown academic side of Shammi Kapoor and also throws light on to his love for western classical music,philosophy and history.I'm sure atleast a couple of readers might be really surprised to read how much Shammi hated his 'boisterous lover boy' image which seemed to have stuck to him eternally.Similarly this autobiography also gives a marvellous peak into the fading world of royals in the post-independent India.The book is as much a social commentary as it is a memoir.The last few chapters devoted to the Jessica Lal murder case and the media trial which she had to endure will definitely remind the discerning reader about the hypocrisy of the leading media houses and the extend to which they will go for carrying out their hidden agendas.(these days,the national media are having multiple orgasms over a newly formed Delhi based political party.Their deliberate attempt to promote it with a hidden agenda of splitting the anti-congress vote and there by helping their masters in UPA to get a third chance to loot and destroy the great country which India once was is pathetic to say the least.A definite bonus in the book is the never-before-seen black and white photos of a young Bina with other eminent personalities like Indira Gandhi and members of the Kapoor family,to name a few.
                      On the downside,I felt that the book lost track a bit somewhere towards the middle.The excessive descriptions of her frequent visits to elite 'members only' clubs and plush,private salons seemed pointless after a while.Another thing which I found jarring is that though the author has spent a lot of pages for writing about her failed marriage to Andy Ramani and her miserable life in San Francisco,what made her wealthy parents choose 'a normal middle class working man' as their son-in-law has been left largely un explained.
Verdict- On the whole,'Bird in a Banyan Tree' is a moving account of a girl's journey to womanhood and her struggles to overcome the obstacles which almost managed to destroy her.A highly recommended read.Rating-4/5  


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