"All her first impressions of Bombay returned and sprouted –once more it was a city of lies, filth, noise, double-dealing, in which all fantasy, all grace came to a hideous end as soon as it descended from the rooftop to the lighted street." From "Descent from the Rooftop" by Anita Desai
"Descent from the Rooftop" is the third short story by Anita Desai I have so far read and posted upon. I think like this one best of all. I loved this story of a woman from a desert region of India who has recently married an affluent Bombay business man. We don't learn the circumstances of his their marriage was arranged. We learn she is a "country girl" when her husband teases her for her fear of riding in elevators.
The couple are on their way to a party at the home of the "friends whom her husband is most proud". He wants to show off his new wife and we sense she is worried that she might not fit in with his sophisticated friends. Everyone at the party is beautifully attired and I so much enjoyed reading the exquisite descriptions of the clothing. The conversation turns to a woman from their circle now living in Paris. She has a wonderful flat there marvelously decorated. She teaches classical Indian dance. Her life at first sounds perfect then through gossip we learn her husband has many debts and she had to fire her cook. Still she sounded wonderful.
As they leave the rooftop apartment she sees the guests and their magnificent clothes seem very ordinary. The ugliness and squalor underlying the surface glamour of Bombay let her see what her life will really be like.
"Descent from the Rooftop" is a wonderful story. It brought out so much in just a few pages.
I hope others will share their experiences with Desai with us
Anita Desai's (1937, Mussooire, India) mother was German, her father was a Bengali business man. German was the language of her parents household but she also grew up fluent in Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and English. Her literary language is English. She has been short listed three times for the Booker Award and her daughter, Kiran Desai won the award. Anita Desai has taught creative writing in numerous high prestige American colleges. She is a fellow The Royal Society of Literature and Girton College in Cambridge. She has also won numerous awards in India. Much of her fiction deals with the lives of ordinary people in India and the hardships created by the 1947 Partition.