Despite the neo-hippy vibe of its title Neem Dreams is not your average culture cuisine, the how I got the shits in Shilpi kind of novel about white people who find themselves leper-hugging in India before they return to their monotonous life-sentences in Manchester or Melbourne, immersed in mortgage and middle-managerhood. Woven around four characters and a neem tree, this is a novel about globalisation, corporate rapacity, environmental annihilation and political villainy. The novel’s four central characters Pandora, Meenakshi, Andy and Jade (Australian, Indian, British and Australian-American) come together as a result of capricious twists of fate: an article in a magazine, a chance encounter at a cafe and finally, a community project in a village centered on a factory producing neem products. Neem was the village dispensary, known to ancient civilizations whose refinement was undreamt of by a still barbarous, distant Europe slowly evolving towards its imperialist technologies. The neem project promised to give each of the four what they had been looking for : Meenakshi needed something worthwhile, something more than her marriage to sustain here: Pandora longed to be an instrument of justice and vengeance: Andy needed a miracle cure: and Jade wanted to source skin-care products for an exclusive New York store. It is a grassroots project, it is socially conscious, it is morally responsible, but, of course, something dark lurks beneath. The tree stands as an antithesis to all that is wrong with humanity. To top it all, a number of multi-national companies are now looking to patent it.
-Tara Sahgal, India Today September 1, 2003