Monday, September 14, 2009

Book review - Diplomat

One big advantage in having a blog is that you can write about whatever you feel like. Today I feel like talking about a book.

This book is from the east region of India, the area called Bengal, that was divided in two parts in 1947, Pakistan got the Eastern part and we got the West Bengal. I like to read literature from all parts of India and I have read and loved many great books from Bengal that were actually translated from Bangla to Hindi.

This book is called Diplomat, written by Nimai Bhattacharya. Unlike Shankar and Sharatchand Chattopadhyaya I have read very few of Nimai Bhattacharya's books and liked only a couple of them, but the ones I have liked, I have loved dearly. Diplomat is one my most favorite books, not just by Nimai Bhattacharya.

The story is simple, but the author's style of writing is intricate. He writes stories like one weaves a fabric, many threads, moving back and forth in different patterns all the time....but there is one prominent thread, the story of Tarun who is an excellent diplomat in Indian Foreign Service and a great person...he is loved by his colleagues and appreciated by his superiors, he is the kind of man who makes friends anywhere he goes. During the course of the novel he does go many places as he is transferred as part of his job - Cairo, London, Berlin, Delhi, and finally again London.

But Tarun has a secret sorrow, a secret that everybody in the foreign service knows, he is looking for his lost love - Indrani. This was a girl he loved since before he knew the meaning of the word. And he lost her in the riots that followed the Indian partition. Ever since he has been looking for her, without much hope left....

This is the central thread of the story, but other events happen and countless little stories are woven around Tarun that keep the reader hooked.

But a great book is not just a narration of events, a great book is one that gives you an insight into life, into people, into yourself.

I read this book long time back, borrowing it from a library, I forget which. Even though it was long time back and I was quite young, I still had sense enough to try and retain the book. I couldn't keep the library's book so I had it xeroxed - yes, illegal in 19 countries, I am sure. I kept that xeroxed book in my papers in India for a long time. But I missed it. This time when I went to India in August I looked for my old xeroxed books and found it.

I have just finished reading it and even though I know the main story very well and I remember the last scene almost verbatim, it still brings tears to my eyes, just that last page. That's the beauty of the narration!

One insight that I got from this book back when I first read it was that we all want to be loved, but we all also want to love, and to not have anyone to pour your love and affection on, that is just as big a misfortune. Of course, the author says it much better in the original language (actually in the translated Hindi), but you can't stop me from trying. :)

Read more books!

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