“Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart’ by Alice Walker
A few relationships, marriages , two kids , books and an artistic life aside, Kate finds herself at a sort of cross roads in life. She loves Yolo, who she lives with currently, but the nagging feeling of something not being there, haunts her. The recurrent dreams of a dry river only helps to aggravate her longing. And she decides to go on a journey, searching for the river that is missing from her life.
First is a rafting trip down the Colorado with a group of women and then another one down the deep jungles of Amazon in search of a mystical medicine, known as the ‘grandmother’. The first journey helps her in slaying some of the past dragons that had deeply entrenched themselves into her self. As she throws up, it is as if her painful experiences are being ejected out along with the vomit. The conversations with the other women in the group brings out some moments only a group of ladies who has really lived their life can enjoy.
The journey for the mystical medicine is with a group of people, all of whom has some deep hurt that they want to heal. While it is a brutal rape and murder for one, for another it is the injustice that his forefathers brought down on the native Indians , for yet another, it is the cry of the colored people who were systematically dragged into a world of drugs.
Kate’s lover, Yolo, goes on a trip to Hawaii at the same time. Though the intentions of the journey are different, the outcome is similar. The message that the author wants to convey is the same, whether it is down the rushing white waters of the Colorado, or the pristine Hawaiian beaches or the scary jungles of the Amazon. That illness, discontent and pain begins when the nature is forced to be out of balance. How the commercialism of the US of A has forced the natives away from the nature that gave them recluse and relief for generations, how even the food that they eat have turned so alien to their bodies and in turn spoilt their souls as well.
One of Kate’s co-traveler’s story was particularly touching for me. His forefathers had snatched land from native Indians and turned it into a ranch. Every year as the family would gather for Thanksgiving, and Indian would come to his house and wait patiently outside. He would be taken to a remote place in the ranch where there is a small spring that never went dry even in the most severe droughts. Once he brings his grandson along with him , at the spring he can be heard talking to his grandson or the spring itself in a language that the ranch owner could not understand but that the hills and trees and water around could very well do. The area is then sold out for mining and they discover a huge underground lake where the spring once was. The lake dries out soon and they find a grave yard of bones below the lake. I loved the way the author narrated how the old Indian was guided by the spirits of his forefathers to the place where they were buried, how the sheet of water lay hidden as a layer to protect them from the vandals outside.
The book is not an easy read that you can finish at one go. It is more of a journey that you need to take along with Kate and Yolo as they understand their inner serpents and learn to release them and finally find the real happiness they were searching for, with each other. It also makes you aware of and feel the pain of the brutalities that we force on Mother Nature and how the Grandmother is always there to welcome us into her bosom, to nurture us and gently show us the right way.
Verdict – Not for everyone, you will either love or hate it, passionately. If you are the kind who searches for life’s meaning in the shine of the dew drop or the ripples on a silent lake, you should read this one.