📖: Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland (2013)
🍸: after the rain
Why this book?
This is Jhumpa Lahiri’s second novel and fourth book. Like her previous works, this story focuses on the experience of Indian immigrants in America. At the same time, the novel is also about the idealism of youth, rebellion, trauma, and loss. I especially appreciated how The Lowland, unlike Lahiri’s other works, places the protagonists’ story within a broader context of geopolitics, inequality, and revolution, showing how these individuals’ experiences of migration and displacement are inextricably tied to global forces.
The Lowland is a story of two brothers who grow up near a marsh in a small Calcutta neighborhood. Subhash dreams of going to America to study to become a scientist, while Udayan, the more rash and rebellious brother, joins the Naxalite movement, which was known for its radical Maoist politics, violence against authorities, and popularity among college campuses during the 1960s. Then one day in the marshy lowland, the two brothers’ fates diverge.
I love reading Lahiri’s writing because of its deceptive simplicity. Her prose says so much in spite of its restraint and lack of embellishment. Many of the details in her story are just small, intimate, or mundane observations of daily life, like eating cream cheese in a parking lot, finding your wife’s birth control pills, or witnessing fall foliage for the first time in New England. Though seemingly neutral on the surface, these observations are propelled by an undertow of longing, regret, and grief. They accumulate over the course of her storytelling, and before you fully realize the change in tide, you’re washed over by a wave of emotion that has been gaining momentum the whole time.
Why this drink?
The marshy lowland situated between two ponds is both setting and symbol within the novel. The lowland floods in rainy season and then dries up during the hot months, making the two ponds “at times separate; at other times inseparable,” just like the two brothers who are often mistaken for twins. This drink was chosen for its vegetal taste, like grass and leaves becoming lush after the rain.
Note: This recipe has been adapted from The Up & Up‘s “Bring June Flowers.” Due to availability of ingredients during quarantine, I used green tea instead of jasmine tea leaves that the Bring June Flowers recipe calls for.
after the rain
1.5 oz vodka
0.5 oz Suze
0.75 oz green tea simple syrup*
0.75 oz lemon juice
3 muddled cucumber slices
cucumber ruffle or slices
- muddle cucumber in a shaker
- pour all remaining ingredients into shaker, and shake with ice
- pour into glass, straining out the muddled cucumber and ice
- serve with ice and cucumber garnish
*how to make green tea infused simple syrup: Steep green tea in hot water, boiled to a temperature of 180F degrees. Pour white granulated sugar and green tea into a pan (using a 1:1 sugar-to-tea ratio) and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool.
Another round, please! 🥂
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Khalend Hosseini’s The Kite Runner (2003)