Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
This graphic novel follows teenager Priyucka (Pri) Das. Pri’s mother left India for the United States just before Pri was born. Pri doesn’t know why her mother left or the identity of her father. When she asks, Mom always changes the subject. Pri likes to draw comics and gets teased by some of her classmates for not wearing clothes that fit in. She idealizes India and her father, imagining life might be better for her elsewhere.
Pri loves hanging out and driving with Uncle Jatin. When his wife has a baby, he can no longer give her the time he once did. Pri prays to the Hindu goddess Shakti, asking her not to take Jatin away. She tells the goddess that Jatin doesn’t need a baby. When the baby gets sick, Pri begins to feel responsible.
Pri finds her mother’s old suitcase, which contains a fine wool scarf called a pashmina. When she puts it on, it transports her to an idyllic version of India. The graphics in the book change from black and white to bright colors whenever she wears the scarf. Each time she puts it on, an elephant named Kanta and a bird named Mayur show her around and let her taste Indian delicacies. When she sees the shadow of a woman that seems to be following her, the animals try to make her believe she’s imagining it.
Pri’s beloved teacher, Mr. Perry, enters some of Pri’s comics in a contest. She wins a $500 prize and asks Mom if they can use the money to visit India. Mom says she will never go back. Pri’s mother begins to worry when Pri won’t go to the hospital to visit Jatin’s baby and seems miserable. Mom says India isn’t the safe, happy place Pri envisions, but the girl refuses to believe it. Mom prays to Shakti for help and then calls her younger sister, Mausi, in India. When she learns Mausi is pregnant, she decides to let Pri visit her.
Pri arrives in India and is surprised by the dirt and poverty all around her. She sees Mausi teaching young women in the slums, trying to help them improve their circumstances. The pashmina stops working its magic for Pri, but Mausi touches it and sees herself with a daughter. She foresees her daughter wanting to assist in the slums like she does and envisions fighting with her husband about it.
Mausi takes Pri to the factory where the magical pashmina was made. On the way, Mausi reveals information about Pri’s father, Rahul. Pri’s mother was engaged to Rahul when she became pregnant. His wealthy family wanted to avoid scandal, and Rahul didn’t want to be tied down with a child. Rahul’s family arranged for Mom to move to America, and Rahul married someone else.
When Mausi and Pri arrive at the pashmina factory, they find the building has been destroyed by fire. Pri puts on the shawl and discovers the shadow she saw in her visions belongs to Rohini, the seamstress who made her scarf. Rohini and other women were forced to work in the factory, and some rebelled by burning it down.
As the factory was blazing, Shakti appeared to Rohini and asked her to make one last shawl out of magical golden silk. This shawl would show women their choices and let them know they didn’t have to be bound by fear. Rohini rushed back into the building to retrieve the silk. After she made the scarf, it showed her another possible future for herself. The image of Rohini turns into Shakti. The goddess assures Pri that Jatin’s baby will be fine. She says Pri was called to India so she could reach more women with a message of empowerment. Pri leaves the pashmina with Mausi when she returns home.
Pri is happy to be reunited with her family, including Jatin’s baby. Mom tells Pri how the pashmina gave her a vision for a better life in America after her broken engagement. Pri writes a comic book called Pashmina.
Months later, Mausi has her baby. As she sleeps in the hospital with the pashmina next to her, a cleaning woman touches the scarf. The woman magically glimpses a better future for herself, indicating that the scarf will keep offering hope and vision to oppressed women.
Pri and her family members worship and burn incense to statues of the Hindu goddess Shakti. According to legend, the gods once told Shakti she could give way to sadness or meditate on the word om. She was so deep in her meditation, she didn’t realize how much it had rained until she was underwater and became the ocean.
Pri’s mother always urges her to pray, saying Shakti always listens. Mausi calls Shakti the goddess of energy and power and says she is like a mother to all. When Rohini goes back into the burning factory, she feels Shakti protecting her.
The pashmina was made at the request of the goddess Shakti. When women touch it, they are given the hope of a better future.
Pri’s mother conceals the past to protect her daughter. She eventually lets Pri travel to India and learn the truth about her father. Pri’s father abandoned her mother. His family made arrangements for Pri’s mom to go to America so she wouldn’t hurt the family name.
Jatin takes Pri driving and serves as a loving male role model in her life. Mausi is honest with Pri about her father and helps her understand Mom’s decisions and secrets. Mr. Perry believes in Pri’s talent and enters her comics in a contest.
The Lord’s name is used in vain a few times.
Pri’s parents conceived her when they were engaged. They never married.
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