Julekha, the princess, sees a young handsome guy in her dream. She is besotted. She sees him again in her dream a second time, and feels lusty. When she sees him in her third dream, she gets impatient of meeting and mating him.
Curiously, this is the premise of Debesh Roy’s novel this year. Way too disappointing for me. Is it a premise to build up a story on at this age? Love story, however brilliantly told, has something tedious about it. But I continued, looking for the leit motif of the novelist who I consider to be one of the great novelists of our time.
Debesh digs in history, mythology and religious scriptures to pad up his story. You find the old Arab world coming alive with his unique narrative, and get some fresh insights into how matrimony worked around in the ancient times. But in the end it does not resonate. I had to skip many passages for its loud sentimentality. There’s an ecstasy scene of mass sex incorporated in the novel – written with panache and style – but it felt crass and redundant.
Tried to read a novel by a new author. Just a few pages on, I found myself yawning.
But I read through KALJATRI by Krishnendu Mukhopadhyay (Desh). It was about four friends – alumni of an Engineering college – settled in different metros with different degrees of success - who renew their contact based on a spam e-mail focusing the concept of time travel experiment undertaken by yet another friend now settled in US. They meet in a reunion in Kolkata, engage in a huge boozing session in an under-construction highrise building in Rajarhat and pour out their feelings and experiences. All very readable except that the whole thing sounds juvenile, contrived and banal. Of course, it's genre writing, not any literary novel. Bengali literature, it seems, is increasingly shifting to genre these days.
The best Puja fiction that I read this year is a long short story (Amazon would call it a novella) called KUSHILAB by Swapnamay Chakrabarty. It’s about a playwright who has has lived, experienced and suffered West Bengal through its different political, social and cultural phases uptill now. Swapnamay weaves his story line in detaled and nuanced prose. It reverberated so much so that I sat stunned and brooding for a while afte I finished the story. The interesting thing about his writing is his masterly asides that expose our phony Bengali intellectuals and wags who you regularly see on the telly. My kudos.
P.S If you have read anything original, authentic or fascinating amongst the puja fare, please tell us in the comment section.