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The Fourth Passenger By Mini Nair

Written by eastern writer on Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Fourth Passenger is the story of four women raised with traditional values, whose friendship and business partnership give them emotional solace, economic self-sufficiency, and the temerity to stand up to religious extremism.

Having reached their thirties, the women are disillusioned with their lives and their marriages—to an alcoholic husband, a zealously religious husband, an abusive husband, and a missing husband. The four friends decide to join hands and set up an urban food stand, which they call Stree, the Hindustani word for woman. In order to establish their fledgling business, they must stand up to extortionists, ruthless competitors, and religious intolerance. They also battle memories of a distant past, when two of them loved the same man. Their friendship ultimately goes beyond individual temperament, caste, religion, and sexual orientation. Their small restaurant gains popularity and eventually grows into a large cooperative employing scores of women who must work to support their families.

Rioting spurred by tensions between Hindus and Muslims reaches Mumbai, and a party of political activists declares a bandh calling for the cessation of all activity in the city. Fearing the violent tactics of the extremists, the citizens of Mumbai remain at home. Unwilling to lose a day’s wages, the women of Stree refuse to conform to the bandh. They dare to open their food stand. One of the women—eight months pregnant and wearing the traditional black purdah—begins preparing the restaurant’s signature dish, egg bhurji. People nearby hear the familiar taka-tak sound of her ladle against the griddle, signifying business as usual. Word spreads, customers flock to the restaurant, and the bandh is foiled. Four women manage to bring religious fundamentalism to its knees.


Mini Nair was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She is the author of an illustrated middle-grade children’s book and a biography of a noted pharmaceutical scientist. Her story idea on the subject of illegal embryo sex selection became the basis for a film produced for the nonprofit organization Population First, Mumbai. She has delivered lectures on the art of crafting a short story, and her fiction has been included in anthologies. Her first adult novel, The Fourth Passenger, will be published in hardcover by ROMAN Books in 2011.

A postgraduate in chemistry from the University of Mumbai, Mini Nair works for a German multinational corporation by day. She is an avid cook who resides with her family and twin daughters in the city of her birth.

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