Chapter 1 Saffron and Curry Leaves in Staten Island
22 March 2023
In Vikas Khanna’s own words, ‘Imaginary Rain’ is “a story about Indian cuisine to glorify it in the West”. Page upon page is drenched in the love for Indian food. As Prerna, the protagonist, grinds the masala, kneads naan dough, fries hot puris, and prepares the tadkas, one can almost smell the fragrances emanating from her kitchen at The Curry Bowl, her Indian specialty restaurant in New York. The book is inspired by Khanna’s grandmother, lovingly called ‘Biji’, but evidently draws from his own experiences as a chef in New York. Khanna describes the pain of struggle of an immigrant chef. After feeding delicious meals to hundreds of New Yorkers, Prerna must shut down her kitchen. In her capable hands, Indian cuisine has conquered the hearts of the Americans, who must sadly say adieu to her food made with infinite patience and served with love. Prerna, a woman now in her fifties, has been running an Indian restaurant in downtown Manhattan for two decades. She is on the cusp of a midlife crisis, and her life indeed unravels when she suddenly loses her son, her lease, and with these, her passion for cooking as well. Caught in the grip of newly awakened emotions, Prerna finds herself confronted by many haunting questions from her past, which take her back to her motherland, India. And so begins an intensely personal struggle that will lead Prerna to forgive herself, escape her past and rediscover her true passion for cooking. This novel is a celebration of life as well as an immigrant’s story of survival, forgiveness and moving on.