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"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Saratchandra, on rainy days

Prior to India's independence, Kolkata (Calcutta) should have been India's most forward-looking city. Intellectual affluence, and abundance of literary and artistic talent at the turn of the century in "the second city of the Empire" is evidenced by the saying "What Calcutta does today, the rest of India follows tomorrow."

Perhaps, looking at the negative publicity that the city receives these days, one might be forced to think that the above is a statement made out of empty pride. Certainly not! Kolkata may not be Calcutta, but there is no denying its influence on India. Something I discovered upon reading Parineeta, by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay.

The novel, which has been made into a critically aclaimed movie by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, is set in 1913. It is the tale of how a young girl clings on the idea of marriage even after separating from the man she believes she is wedded to. A simple love story, which Swagato Ganguly (in his introduction) tells us, should not be rejected as run-of-the-mill because this novel was among the initiators of "the romantic novel" in India.

I found the tale especially warm because before picking it up, I had watched a couple of movies of François Truffaut - Jules et Jim, and Le Dernier Métro - both undoubted classics, and both of which explore extra-marital relationships. In direct opposition to this stands Parineeta (which means Espoused) in which the lead character, Lalita, considers herself married to Shekhar Nath, just because the latter garlanded her once.

It is not just the story that lends weight to this adorable novel. Nor is it the characterisation or the vivid narration. Rather it is the backdrop of the tale that makes one come back to it again and again. Saratchandra's Calcutta, just like Pagnol's France or Narayan's Malgudi or Hardy's Wessex is a throwback in time - to an age devoid of modern distractions; in which life was simple even simplistic, and the characters all very good and close to life. The idealized past that we all dream about.

Oh, what can be better than a rainy day, on which you recline comfortably in your favourite chair with a book like this in one hand and a cup of piping hot tea in another!

2 Comments:

Blogger airanand said...

hmmm.. this kind of book is not really my cup of tea.. but I will take ur word for it.. and maybe sometime in the far future.. I will recline in my fav chair with this book and a cuppa for a delightful read!!

11/06/2005 12:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Vijay Krishna said...

The book is just 90 pages long. So, it is very ideal for a rainy afternoon!

11/06/2005 12:52:00 AM  

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