Man, India during the 1940â€²s was a mess! There's tension all over the place! The Indians and the British are fighting, the Muslims and the Hindus are fighting, the Christians are fighting the Caste system which is finally about to collapse thanks in part to Gandhi who is not fighting with anyone! Whew! The Hope of Shridula depicts these events from the inside point of view of Ashish and his family who are â€˜untouchables.' It's a fascinating glimpse into the events and culture of 1940â€²s India.
Strom's writing reminds me of Linda Chaikin's exotic settings and historical details. Strom's settings are grittier and involve the underbelly of society, while Chaikin's stories are ususally about a character caught between the upper and the middle classes. Fans should also check out Strom's Grace in Africa series, which follows Grace, the daughter of an African princess and a white slave trader, on her quest to find and free her enslaved husband.
Seems things haven't changed much for Ashish and his family now while still working as indebted servants in India since the first book by Kay Marshall Strom, The Faith of Ashish. Now many years later, Ashish and his wife Zia have only one surviving child remaining, a young girl named Shridula and for Ashish, it provides the only outlet of hope left in the world being one of the lowest castes of people.
Deemed by the higher castes as Untouchables, Ashish's family have spent 48 years serving out their families debt which it seems will never be paid. What's even worse is the treatment of the servants among the Lal family. Those living on the land are forced to work for the son of Mammen Samuel, Boban Joseph, who has personally vowed not to be a lenient as his father. He pushes them to work in the grueling heat in which people begin dropping like flies, forces to not pay them in their rice rations unless they work harder than in previous harvests, and worst of all, pursues his growing affections for the young girls especially young Shridula.
The only defense to keep Boban Joseph at bay is the threat from the pale British woman who works at the only clinic in India tending to the sick and wounded no matter what caste of people need help. She has even offered to keep the abandoned and orphaned children who have no where else to turn. It seems however that the new Dr. William Cooper and his wife Susanna want things run differently, casting aside the Indian traditions for those more favored among the British. They even removed Miss Abigail Davidson from operating the English Mission Medical Clinic and treat her as though she is feeble, weak and too old. They even offer to have her sent to more suitable housing preferable to people of her age.
In the Hope of Shridula, the readers are thrown into the beginnings of the revolts for independence among the people of India as the teachings of Gandhi begin to circuit among the lower castes people providing them with an alternative to the years of servant hood that they have been reduced to. Once again you are given a rare look inside how difficult the lifestyles are among the people living in India and their beliefs in Karma and reincarnation while Christians struggle to provide an alternative for hope in this country in 1946.
I received this book compliments of Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for my honest review and applaud the efforts once again of Kay Marshall Strom for bringing even more awareness to the plight of the people still living in India. While things are slowly improving, the struggle in the poorest areas still remains. Kay has been writing about humanitarian and justice issues and the global family of God in her books and has been to India seven times. This is the second book in the Blessings in India series and can't wait to read her next one. I highly recommend this book to once again enlighten readers to the plight of the people in India as well as other countries in the world and rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars. This book can be read as a stand alone but the impact is greater if you pick up the first one which really defines the castes in India.
This was an interesting read. The insight into 1940s India was detailed and fascinating. The idea that cultural Christianity was normal in India, as an alternative to Hinduism certainly grabbed my attention, and the complicated lives of those subject to the caste system in India, along with the ways in which even Christians benefited from it was disturbing.
Part of what makes the story so enthralling is the seeming indifference of the people to the injustice that surrounds them on a regular basis. It is frightening to think that children born in abject poverty have no hope of ever doing anything else, because their lives are determined by the caste into which they were born.
Into such a world, Christianity would seem a wonderful addition, but for the families portrayed in this story, it was almost an additional fatalistic afterthought. The children of the outcasts are treated as additional laborers, and the ostensibly Christian land owners made no plans to treat any of the outcasts as anything more than indentured slaves. Indeed, Ashish, who is Shridula's father, would be punished severely if it was found that he has a Bible.
This would be disturbing enough, but it is discouraging to recognize that many of the circumstances described here are no different in the 21st century than they were in the 20th. People throughout India live in abject poverty, and when the hope of Christ is presented to them, they risk much to accept the gospel. Now, as then, it is considered a crime to convert someone to a new religion, especially Christianity. Hinduism continues to stress the caste system, although less overtly, in many areas and people continue to be enslaved on a routine basis.
Kay's book serves as a reminder that missionary work must be more than addressing felt needs. There is much to be said for taming the beast of starving bellies, of course, but in the end, the true need of these and every peoples is the love and mercy of a Savior who cares deeply about their distress and especially their hopelessness.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255