Author : Upamanyu Chatterjee
Publisher : Hamish Hamilton (an imprint of Penguin Books)
ISBN : 978-0-670-08352-7
I must say, I was impressed by the very first sentence - 'For not having loved one's dead father enough, could one make amends by loving one's child more ?'. This sentence beautifully captures the philosophy, the essence of life. Can the wrongdoings in one relationship be rectified by compensating it at some other place?
The main protagonist Jamun is in his 40s and is in search of his 85-year old, half paralysed father Shyamanand, who mysteriously disappeared one night.
Many subplots in the form of tributaries join the main flow of the story as we go along. Jamun's brother Burfi, who had long severed ties with his father and Jamun, returns home. Jamun's former love interest Kasturi and the mother of Jamun's only child comes back too with a clear motive behind this move of hers. She wants to capture the melodramatic moments of Jamun's life into a Hindi Soap - Cheers Zindagi. A crafty builder Lobhesh Monga eyeing the property that belonged to Jamun's father is making all possible attempts to buy it out.
I consider it an achievement of the narration that the readers get to clearly experience Jamun's thoughts, emotions, apprehensions, fears and dilemmas as the story progresses. The story focuses on one relationship predominantly - between a father and a son. The supporting characters are etched out beautifully by Chatterjee whether it is the maid, her son, the neighbour Naina Kapur or Mr Mukherjee.
Like previous Upamanyu Chatterjee's books, the narrative is peppered with sarcasm, dark humour and intelligent witticism. The story deals with perils of old age, agonies, despairs, inevitability of degeneration and death. The story is capable of pushing the readers into introspective mood on many occasions, questioning the meaning of life, imperfection in the world, the futility of existence and where does the exercise of living leads us to. There are some portions which are completely power packed with a lot of substance while some go without creating any ripple. At some point while reading, the darkness, the negativity, the bitterness and the gloom become too much to handle and readers may feel it a challenge to sail through such parts. I firmly believe that sometimes, brevity wins over garrulousness and the author needs to experiment with that a little more. However, the wise selection of metaphors and analogies would surely make readers fall in love with the author's writing style.
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