Title: Bird In A Banyan Tree
Author: Bina Ramani
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Price: Rs. 500
Snapshot: This is the true account of Bina Ramani's life since childhood, to becoming a world class fashion designer to loosing it all only to stand by the truth as an eye witness in Jessica Lal's murder case.
The Review: There is a famous saying that truth is stranger than fiction. Well it confused me for a long time till I read the life story of Gregory David Robetrs in "Shantaram" and Bina Ramani's life story was another confirmation of the same.
The first few pages are an account of the day she was being sent to Tihar jail. That certainly captures you and then the story goes into flashback. An innocent little Bina stares at the Sea in Mumbai having migrated safely a couple of years from Pakistan, she falls in love with the city. The story goes on about growing up in a conservative Sikh house hold where many of her passions like modelling, singing etc are all not allowed to be persued because they are contrary to the norm, which in those days was to be "an ideal wife". Two most amazing things about her I felt was she never hated her family for the same (I surely would have) and she always found her next passion in some form of art sooner or later.
She grows up to be a beautiful lady finding attention of various men of different statures, the most interesting account which she describes in detail is Shammi Kappor's love for her. It is also rich with tits and bits about the showman Raj Kapoor through his good and bad times. Life however for her turns grey as she marries Andy Ramani and moves to the US. It was a typical case of the guy having a relationship earlier and then marries an Indian girl. He shows no interest in her and is dominating and insulting. Meanwhile her beauty attracts another film star who falls in love with her (she hasn't named him for privacy reasons). She leaves her husband and is almost ready to marry him, when Andy apologizes and promises to be a better husband. She looses love second time as she decides to give him another chance but the bliss is only temporary.
Her husband kidnaps her daughters, she fights for their custody meanwhile balancing finances by managing her business in India and US. She also doesn't loose her artistic talents but it only shines brighter through her hard times as she gets into Jewellery and fashion designs. Her personal account with the then prime minister Indira Gandhi noticing her work was another rare encounter.
Not just that the best comes when she describes Hauz Khas village as the true village when she first entered. It was unbelievable it to imagine the way she described, the most lively place in Delhi now was once true to its name a village. She truly gets the 'hatts off " credits for what it is today. . I being a student of infection biology couldn't get a better real life account of people's reaction to the disease then.
Then comes love again and she grabs it but destiny has other plans and all cant be well and there happens the Jessica Lal murder case. If you watched the movie then please read the book to be shocked how awfully the story was presented. It is only sad for the Indian film industry to not be thorough when making a movie on real life incident and really not serving the purpose resulting only in mockery and tarnishing someone's image. One also get an account of how media operates only to drive 24*7 news channels. The only saving grace was that justice was done to the victim. However, any weaker person could be broken in Tihar jail, its a miracle Bina Ramani survived.
The book serves you amongst her hardships the times of people around her, an encounter with Amitabh Bachchan when he still wasn't a super star, Richard Gere associating with her for AIDS awareness and the taboo there was in that era for example keeps you perked. It show you the real face of society,media, people and the Indian film industry. Needles to mention an exciting and an eye opening read. Bina Ramani truly is one person to whom art and the asthetic sense comes naturally, for despite of everything she concluded with a gratitude towards all her situations in life.
Positives: A great story, crisp writing and good flow.
Overall: 4 stars on 5.
I thank Rupa Publishers for a review copy.