The Pokhraj


About The Pokhraj

The Pokhraj, a yellow sapphire, is the key to mystery that envelopes an up beat Jewish family living in Houston.

Natalya Landau, a successful lawyer, cannot imagine life without motherhood and feels pressured by the tick of her biological clock. Victor, her husband, is an English professor who agrees with parenthood in principle, but is too happy and self-centered to take the big leap. He considers his life ideal just as it is.

When the couple conceives a child, the Landaus are changed forever. From the moment of conception, the new life takes over completely, bringing unexpected perspectives to the parents as it embarks upon a living drama that perplexes everyone except a paternal grandmother.

According to The Pokhraj, conception is the embodiment of a soul that enters a particular family by its own choice. It is endowed is endowed from the beginning with a full-grown consciousness that embraces the past even as it determines the future not only for itself but also for everyone in its circle.

The Pokhraj begins in contemporary Houston, but travels far in its implications and possibilities through time, space and cultures. It tells a mysterious, colorful and often humorous story. The characters in this fictional reality face a kaleidoscope of true-life questions about reincarnation, near death experiences, Hinduism, Judaism, mythology, astrology, family values, socio-cultural issues, time travel, the power of gemstones and, even about the essence of life.

Up until the very end, each answer creates a new question. The suspense will keep you turning the pages as you piece the clues together. Whether or not you anticipated the conclusion, it will certainly enrich your vision of the world.



Reviews and Commentaries


BookWire Review – 2004

Irina Gajjar’s panoramic tale “The Pokhraj” is a fascinating journey of romance set against a backdrop of Jewish culture and Hindu philosophy of karma and reincarnation… This creatively conceptualized, exquisitely written novel simultaneously brings alive the joys of parenthood and the power of strong family ties.


Natalya and Victor Landau are happily married and successful in their respective professions. Like most modern-day couples, this Houston-based Jewish couple’s fast-paced life leaves little room for starting a family. Natalya feels that all she needs to complete her happiness is a child and is worried about her biological clock ticking away. Victor, on the other hand, is not “ready for the drastic change in lifestyle that a child would bring” and wants to postpone the idea of starting a family indefinitely. However, an unknown force influences him . . .

At once mysterious and plausible, “The Pokhraj” is a spellbinding tale. Crafted with a fine blend of richly portrayed characters, an intriguing plot, a stunning depth of human emotions and philosophical insights, this page-turner is highly recommended…


Book Views -April, 2005

Publishing house seem to spring live like mushrooms after the rain. One such Emerald Ink Publishing of Hot Springs, Arkansas sent along two novels… The Pokhraj by Irina Gajjar (16.95, soft cover) combines her Jewish and Hindu backgrounds (I told you it was different) in a story about a young couple that begins to think about having a family. As with all major choices, they will inevitably alter one’s life in unforeseen ways. There is, however, an element to this novel that seeks to capture the meaning of the soul’s experience, weaving a tale of mystery, philosophy and romance. Past lives and the soul of the child intertwine as do the both Judaism and Hinduism in this mystery…


Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin –  Winter 2004

Hindus consider the yellow sapphire, The Pokhraj, good luck. In this novel, The Pokhraj links the past, present and future following karma. Gajjar works philosophy, romance and mystery into this tale about Jewish friends navigating Indian culture.


Renee Blasky (Africa)

I loved it, particularly the blending of cultures, religions and personal beliefs. I certainly hope readers, through this book, will come to better appreciate the diversity of the world in which we live. I also imagine a person could read this book several times and depending on their current phase of life get completely different meanings and value from the story each time they read it. It will forever remain in my library!





Victor made plans to take Nat to see the movie Siddhartha, which was playing in the Museum of Fine Arts. Nat’s flight was smooth and she dozed through most of it. She landed in Houston right on schedule and she was pleased to drive straight to the museum from the airport. The movie was beautifully done, capturing not only the theme and plot but also the tone of Herman Hess’s novel. After the show, she and Victor had supper at Angelo’s. They talked about the film.

“What part did you like best?” Victor asked.

“The part when Kamala told Siddhartha he needed to make money using his knowledge and asked him what he could do and Siddhartha said, ‘I can think; I can wait; I can fast.’”

“Me too,” Victor agreed. “I also liked the part where he watches his son leave, but it upset me.”

“Me, too.” Now Nat nodded. “That part made me cry.”

“Let’s focus on the happier part of the film when we get home,” Victor whispered.

“Yes, Victor. But I’m far from an expert at the game of love. Kamala was a courtesan and I’m a lawyer.

“Oh, you are an expert all right. I don’t know who taught you, but you are.”

“I guess you did. You must have changed your field of expertise without telling me.” Nat smiled, but just for a second, before she continued. “The truth is love is too important to be a game to me. Victor, I’m sorry I flew off without you. I missed you so.”

“I missed you too, but I had a good weekend and, well . . . I want to talk to you seriously about …”

“No, Victor. No serious talk now.”

“Then when?”


Soon turned out to be a week after Nat returned from New York. It was a week during which she sought inner balance. She wondered what Victor had on his mind and she feared for what he would say about what was on hers. For the first time in her life Natalya felt a need to pray, but she didn’t know how to go about it, so she just began holding dialogs with God. She asked Him or Her to please make Victor understand. Then she felt guilty about her request. Even though she had started thinking more about God, she couldn’t say for sure if she believed in a universal power and even if she believed, wasn’t it wrong not to give God a second thought until you were afraid or wanted something? At the same time, wasn’t the very act of asking a sign of faith? If you prayed for something, it meant you

thought on some level that God existed and had the power to grant your wish. That made sense, even though Nat wasn’t completely sure it was right.



“You know something?” Natalya pointed out. “This horoscope assumes that reincarnation is a fact. What if there is no past life?”

“You’re right that Indian astrology takes the matter of past lives for granted,” Anjali answered, “and if you don’t accept reincarnation, the horoscope doesn’t make much sense. I suppose allusions to earlier lives would seem eerie to someone who isn’t comfortable with the idea of reincarnation.”

“Is belief in reincarnation a tenet of Hinduism? Victor asked.

“Not exactly,” Jaya explained. “It’s more of a starting point, a premise. There is no paradigm that Hindus must believe in, but reincarnation which incorporates

the concept of karma is the philosophical foundation of Hindu belief.”

“So what do Hindus believe?” Nat asked.

“A better way to answer would be to explain Hindu thought because no two Hindus believe precisely the same thing.”

“Well then, Jaya, can you explain Hindu thought simply?”

“She can,” Anjali piped in, “but while she explains it, I’m going to set up our tea.”

“OK,” Jaya began a few moments later, “I’d say the most important idea in Hinduism is that life’s goal is to know the Truth, with a capital T. You could say that Truth is God. Knowing Truth is an all-encompassing reality. It’s everything: the essence of immortality and liberation. The Gita, which is a distillation of the Hindu scriptures, explains that there are three paths to reaching Truth: learning

or gnana yoga, worship or bhakti yoga, and action or karma yoga. Since Hinduism presumes that it is impossible to attain knowledge of Truth in one lifetime, it becomes necessary to accept reincarnation.”

“Where does karma fit in?” Victor asked.

“Karma is intertwined with reincarnation. Karma means destiny that is neither random nor arbitrary. Together karma and reincarnation answer the human question of why things happen as they do. We know from science that physical phenomena are the result of cause and effect. If we drop a glass, it will break. If we see a broken glass on the floor, we know from experience that it fell or was dropped. We know precisely what caused the glass to break, even if we didn’t see how the glass got broken. Hinduism maintains that everything in life is the effect of a cause. If something happens in this life, it has to have been caused by something that happened before, either earlier in this life or in an earlier life. It makes no difference whether or not we know or acknowledge a cause. Just as in physics every action mandates an equal and opposite reaction, in life every cause mandates an effect. Not remembering the cause is analogous to not seeing the glass break.”

“You just gave a lucid and logical explanation of something that I always believed was muddled or complex,” Victor said.

“It’s food for thought,” Nat said. “I guess believing in karma and reincarnation is like believing that what goes around comes around. Perhaps it does take more than one lifetime to play out a cycle. So, even if you don’t believe in reincarnation as an empirical reality, you’d have to say it’s plausible.”

“It’s a hypothesis which somewhat explains the mysteries of life, death, and suffering,” Victor suggested. “That’s true,” Jaya agreed. “Those mysteries are in part what I meant by the ‘human question of why things happen as they do.’ And that’s precisely how many Hindus view reincarnation, as a hypothesis. I personally think that even if it cannot be categorically proven, reincarnation is more plausible than not. Besides, believing in it gives my life direction. It’s a lodestar which guides my conduct.”



Sitting Shiva to mourn Rebecca’s death had given no relief to the Landaus. Instead of bringing peace, the silence and covered mirrors sharpened their sense of gloom. However, little by little, this small family came to understand that its loss was one each of them would have to cope with alone and that time would assuage their grief.

Dr. Henry Landau came to a different understanding. He felt time would never ease his suffering. It would remain sharp for the rest of his days, that he hoped wouldn’t be too many. But he appreciated the need to maintain a brave front so as not to burden his loved ones, and he tried to act as if being alive without Beca was bearable.

Alone, he said Kaddish for the soul of his wife, whom he knew as Rebecca Gershwin, although she had been named Ruth at birth. Rebecca was her middle name, given in memory of her mother’s grandmother. Beca confessed this to him some years after they were married.

“Why don’t you use your first name?” Henry asked.

“I’d prefer not to say,” Beca replied.

Rebecca left no will. That was a deliberate judgment she had made when she was quite well. She knew her property would go to her husband, if he survived her,

and then to Victor and his family and she had no wishes, other than those she had relayed to Henry. He knew she would prefer cremation to burial, so she had been cremated and her ashes stored in a crematorium. The vault that contained the urn where her physical remains would rest indefinitely was inscribed:

Rebecca Landau nee Gershwin, Beloved wife of Henry Landau, Mother of Victor Landau and his wife Natalya Landau, Grandmother of Sheela Landau.

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