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A Friendship Set in Stone

In Sarojini’s Mother, Sarojini-Saz-Campbell comes to India to search for her biological mother. Adopted and taken to England at an early age, she has a degree from Cambridge and a mathematician’s brain adept in solving puzzles. Handicapped by a missing shoebox that held her birth papers and the death of her English mother, she has few leads to carry out her mission and scant knowledge of Calcutta, her birthplace.

Through an emotionally intense journey of survival and mental demons – Sarojini discovers how the concept of motherhood is much more nuanced than simple biology.

Chiru Sen, an Elvis lookalike, becomes her guide and confidante on this journey. Find a glimpse of their first meeting in the excerpt below.


It was easy to spot Saz at the Rex. She was sitting by herself near the window. At first glance she looked Indian, but not fully so, given the way she was flapping the menu around awkwardly, troubled by the flies. She nodded when I mentioned Idris and pointed to the seat across from her. Then she gave a start as I grabbed the menu from her hand and swatted a fly that was about to perch on her half-eaten croissant.

‘Did you have to kill it!’ She scowled; eyes fixed on the dead fly.

‘Not unless you wished to share your meal with it!’ Shrugging, I tried to lighten the air.

She didn’t speak to me for a good while, kept her eyes locked on my face. From her puzzled look you could see she wasn’t expecting Idris’s friend to resemble a rock star. ‘Why do you dress like a dead man?’ Saw asked.

Right away I knew she was special and why Suleiman was bent on saving her from being spoilt.

‘The King isn’t dead!’ I joked.

‘Really! If he was alive, his hair would’ve fallen out by now. Would you have shaved your head then?’ Regaining her composure after the fly incident, she returned tot he croissant, taking small bites and chewing thoroughly.

Words came to my lips, but I kept them closed hoping to hear some more from Saz.

‘Or are you hoping he lives on through you? Like we want our parents and grandparents to keep on living forever.’

I wasn’t expecting philosophy straight up, I have to confess, not before we had discussed matters of hygiene at least. Like the condition of her flat and toilet and the owner’s demeanour, whether she had managed to acquire an Indian SIM for her phone, and stayed healthy from her travels.

Finished with her meal, she avoided the Rex’s yellowing napkin and took out a pack of tissues to wipe her lips. Then she cut into my thoughts.

‘It isn’t all bad to imagine we are somebody else. Especially if there is confusion over who we really are.’

She appeared calm, and the words coming out of her mouth were crisp and clear. Much as I was prepared to strike up a Geordie, a Brummie or a Cockney, her English was clearly BBC.

‘Especially if we aren’t sure where we’ve come from, or where we belong?’

It was my turn for lofty talk, and a chance to impress my new friend. ‘Which is…’

‘Which is true for half the people on this planet!’ She took the words right out of my mouth, ‘like the two of us—you a Bengali Elvis and me a brown Saz Campbell from Bromley!’

Smart girl!—I thought. She was playing my role, out of the wings and joining up two strangers with nothing more than a few chosen words.

Did I want a coffee of the cinnamon tea she’d ordered, Saz asked when the waiter came around. I shook my head. It was too early in our friendship to have her buy me refreshments. ‘A croissant perhaps?’ She smiled, pointing to the menu and keeping it out of my reach to avoid another unnecessary killing.

I wasn’t expecting Suleiman’s ‘girl’ to be a stunner, but her smile was quite extraordinary. The eyes are the most revealing, they say, but in her case it was definitely the smile. Dressed Western but Indian in looks, it made her out to be her own person unattached to a place of birth or home address.

The bestselling author of The Japanese Wife is back with an intimate look at human connections, friendships and family.

Saz, Chiru and his band members set off to help Saz look for her birth mother. Will they be successful? Find out in Kunal Basu’s, Sarojini’s Mother!

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