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My Book Review of 'Kintsugi' by Anukrti Upadhyay

According to Wikipedia, “Kintsugi ("golden joinery"), also known as kintsukuroi ("golden repair") is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”

Kinstsugi – A novel by Anukrti Upadhyay tells the stories of women who have fractured relationships and try to make something beautiful out of the fragments of their lives. The first chapter is about Haruko, a part-Japanese, part-Korean woman who comes to India to learn traditional meenakari enamel work after completing her program at a design school abroad. She is an apprentice to Madanji, a fourth-generation goldsmith who takes her on as a favour to someone and is unaware of her gender until she arrives. 

“Everyone knew that women were not allowed to learn the craft of goldsmiths and artisans”. Haruko defies the traditional order by learning a craft that is reserved for menfolk. During her stay, she meets with an accident and injures herself, which leads her to meet a doctor who is engaged to someone in Japan. The chapter tells us about the fragility of relationships and the art of finding beauty in broken things. As she puts it “Not all vessels are meant to hold water, some are for allowing water to seep away.” “Broken things are precious, too.”

The second chapter ‘Meena’ explores the damaged relationship between Yuri and her mother, which leads Yuri to make unconventional choices in her life and exert an influence on Meena’s life.

The third chapter, ‘Leela’ picks up where ‘Haruko’ leaves off. It involves some of the same characters from the first chapter and Leela, one of them, inspired by Haruko before her,  learns the art of “thewa”. Tayaji offers to teach her since she sees “the soul of beauty in damaged ornaments”. Tayaji says “your biradari does not allow a girl to be taught these things. My own clan does not involve daughters or daughters-in-law in our art.” Madanji has a problem with Leela making and selling “ornaments like a common sunar of the bazaar”. How she finds her own independence and returns “home on winged feet” forms the rest of the chapter. In a way, her story arc so far is similar to Haruko’s. 

The stories of Yuri, Prakash and Hajime form the rest of the novel. Set in Japan and Jaipur, Kintsugi follows the lives of these characters as they break and join again in unexpected ways.

Classified under literary fiction, this novel is written by Anukrti Upadhyay who is the author of Dhaura and Bhaunri ( 2019). The novel has a streak of feminism running through it. 


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