Winner of the Silver Nautilus Award for Journalism & Investigative Reporting
"Elizabeth Flock takes us on an intimate cruise on the shifting sea of the heart, in the best book set in Bombay that I've read in years. Flock's total access to her characters, and her highly sympathetic and nonjudgmental gaze, prove that love and literature know no borders. Easily the most intimate account of India that I've read, and of value to anybody that believes in love and marriage."—Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City
"This remarkable debut is so deeply reported, elegantly written, and profoundly transporting that it reads like a novel you can’t put down. It’s both a nuanced and intimate evocation of Indian culture, and a provocative and exciting meditation on marriage itself."—Katie Roiphe, author of The Violet Hour
In the vein of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, an intimate, deeply reported and revelatory examination of love, marriage, and the state of modern India—as witnessed through the lives of three very different couples in today’s Mumbai.
In twenty-first-century India, tradition is colliding with Western culture, a clash that touches the lives of everyday Indians from the wealthiest to the poorest. While ethnicity, class, and religion are influencing the nation’s development, so too are pop culture and technology—an uneasy fusion whose impact is most evident in the institution of marriage.
The Heart Is a Shifting Sea introduces three couples whose relationships illuminate these sweeping cultural shifts in dramatic ways: Veer and Maya, a forward-thinking professional couple whose union is tested by Maya’s desire for independence; Shahzad and Sabeena, whose desperation for a child becomes entwined with the changing face of Islam; and Ashok and Parvati, whose arranged marriage, made possible by an online matchmaker, blossoms into true love. Though these three middle-class couples are at different stages in their lives and come from diverse religious backgrounds, their stories build on one another to present a layered, nuanced, and fascinating mosaic of the universal challenges, possibilities, and promise of matrimony in its present state.
Elizabeth Flock has observed the evolving state of India from inside Mumbai, its largest metropolis. She spent close to a decade getting to know these couples—listening to their stories and living in their homes, where she was privy to countless moments of marital joy, inevitable frustration, dramatic upheaval, and whispered confessions and secrets. The result is a phenomenal feat of reportage that is both an enthralling portrait of a nation in the midst of transition and an unforgettable look at the universal mysteries of love and marriage that connect us all.
Elizabeth Flock is a reporter for PBS NewsHour. She began her career at Forbes India magazine, where she spent two years as a features reporter in Mumbai, and has worked for U.S. News & World Report and the Washington Post. She has also written for major outlets, including the New York Times, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, Hindustan Times, and The Hindu. She lives in Washington, DC. The Heart Is a Shifting Sea is her first book.
Table of Contents
Author's Note xi
Map of India xvii
Map of Mumbai xix
Cast of Characters xxi
Prologue: Mumbai, 2014 1
Devotion: Maya and Veer, 1999 to 2009 13
Produce a Child, and God Smiles: Shahzad and Sabeena, 1983 to 1998 57
A Suitable Match: Ashok and Parvati, 2009 to 2013 101
Illusions: Maya and Veer, 2010 to 2014 145
Fire in the Heart: Shahzad and Sabeena, 1999 to 2013 185
Sky watching: Ashok and Parvati, 2013 to 2014 223
In Time: Maya and Veer, 2014 to 2015 259
Moving House: Shahzad and Sabeena, 2014 to 2013 291
The Family Line: Ashok and Parvati, 2014 to 2013 325
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