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'Fragrance Beyond Borders' by Amarendra Narayan
This is a noble effort by an Indian author from Bangkok for the betterment of Indo-Pak relations, in which the principal character forms a friendship society called, 'Fragrance Beyond Borders' and dwell upon new means to bring the two nations closer.

THIS STORY is a good example of how Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) wish well for their country and take the responsibility of doing whatever they can for the country. I genuinely appreciate the efforts of the writer to create an interesting story and characters to give out the message of friendship between India and Pakistan.

Set in Bangkok, the story revolves around the family of Ahmed who is originally from Pakistan. He runs a business in Bangkok and is soon joined by Ravi, a young, intelligent, handsome businessman from India. Ravi soon impresses Ahmed, his wife and their beautiful, intelligent, young daughter Najma by his business sense, skills and winsome manners. Both Najma and Ravi find it difficult to understand why Indians and Pakistanis cannot live harmoniously everywhere else like they do in Bangkok. Judy, a journalist by profession and Najma’s best friend represents the western world in Bangkok. She wonders why two countries with such similar food habits, culture, taste and preferences cannot remain at peace. The three are joined by another journalist and a singer from Pakistan. These young people discusses the reason for the causes of conflict between the two countries and also raises a question mark on the necessity of partition. Determined to make efforts for the betterment of relation between the two nations, they form a society named, ‘Friendship’. This is soon joined by most Indians and Pakistanis in Bangkok and from other places too.

The society aims at emphasising the role of the youth, the media and the entertainment industry in the whole peace process. Part of their programme is to hold trade, fun and food fairs in Bangkok, Pakistan and India. They achieve success greatly in their efforts and the author tries to show that if some people join hands together for this cause then there is no reason why there should be any bitterness between the two countries. All this while there is also the budding romance between Ravi and Najma. It brings itself to the forefront when during a fair in Pakistan; Ravi gets hurt seriously in a bomb blast. Najma then confesses to him that he means the world to her. The incident leaves entire Lahore shocked and that is when the goodness of the people is brought to light. Great care is taken to help Ravi recover, which he does and returns to Lahore to complete the fair and prove to the terror causing agents that this will not deter them from carrying on their endeavours to improve things between India and Pakistan.

Also, Ravi’s father discovers his ancestral home and his childhood friends in Lahore, this episode is described well and reflects the sentiment of those who left their homes and crossed borders after partition. The book also raises the issue of inter-religion marriages of which Ravi and Najma are examples. Their mothers wish they belonged to the same religion so that they could get them married. In the end though, Ravi’s uncle abruptly addresses Najma as ‘our daughter-in-law’, something that I failed to understand as nowhere before has the author mentioned that they got married. The story concludes with Ravi shifting to India. Other important characters are Modi, an Indian and Khan, a Pakistani, both influential people in Bangkok, who are friends of the Ahmeds and Ravi. In the end, all characters see hope for friendship and believe that it will spread fragrance beyond borders.

All in all, a fast paced story, some parts may end a bit abruptly including the end as I said before, but an effort sure is visible in the direction of improving Indo-Pak relations. The language is simple, though not very polished considering this is his first novel in English.

The book is 203 pages long and is published by Thai publishers, Interlink.

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