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Friday, 13 January 2012

Book Review - An Atlas Of Impossible Longing

How many times have we stretched our hands towards our friends asking them to read our palm in jest and how much of it do we really believe it?

“Want, want, hope, hope…this is what your palm says too, moshai, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings…Nothing but longing.” (pg. 199).

And that is exactly what can be true for everyone of us who seek the astrologer’s predictions, it’s what we hope and want, a better future with security, wealth and health, all in perfect balance-an impossible longings.

I read the blurb at Simon and Schuster, was impressed and bought immediately, it read:
On the outskirts of a small town in Bengal, a family lives in solitude in their vast new house. Here, lives intertwine and unravel. A widower struggles with his love for an unmarried cousin. Bakul, a motherless daughter, runs wild with Mukunda, an orphan of unknown caste adopted by the family. Confined in a room at the top of the house, a matriarch goes slowly mad; her husband searches for its cause as he shapes and reshapes his garden. As Mukunda and Bakul grow, their intense closeness matures into something else, and Mukunda is banished to Calcutta. He prospers in the turbulent years after Partition, but his thoughts stay with his home, with Bakul, with all that he has lost—and he knows that he must return…….. 
The book is in three parts and carries the story across three generations.

The characters are well sketched out and the scenes of Calcutta, Songrah and a house at Manoharpur come alive with her vivid descriptions

“We went from room to room, Bakul providing explanation for each, with apologies for all-pervading dust. She spoke in the same passionate descriptive way, not pausing to let us respond. I recognized the mildewed portraits on the ground floor from my visits with Aangti Baba, and the chandelier he had been eying still hung from the ceiling, too grey with dust and cobwebs, surely, to make light. We passed through enormous wood-paneled billiards room, with table piled high with legless chairs, broken boxes and pictures in frames. I wondered who had used it in the past- it was certainly never going to be usable in the future".(pg.291)

Staying in an isolated place can wreck the nerves of a normal person and this character is clearly etched out in the first section ‘The drowned house’ where Kunanbala suffers from a strange disease of hurling random abuses, and has to be locked away in a room to save the family from embarrassment.

As the relationship between Bakul (a motherless child) and Mukunda (an orphan) grows, you begin to wonder if the caste and social status will come in their way.

Good story, very riveting, read it during the weekly 3 hours-bus journeys to school, during which I often read books to divert my mind from crazy traffic of Mumbai. This is the book I would recommend that people with a librarian degree buy for their libraries, a book that I enjoyed a lot, especially the third section “The Water’s Edge’ that got me so interested that I finished it all in one go, at home, under warm covers. 

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