"A room without books is like a body without a soul." ~ Cicero.

"A room without books is like a body without a soul." ~ Cicero.
"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book." ~ Groucho Marx

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Shadowed Existence

Being a 'Probashee Bangalee' I was never much into the Bengali culture and history and like any other 'Khotta Bangali' considered the partition of Bengal as just another historical event. Then I came across Amitav Ghosh's 'The Shadow Lines' as it was there in my syllabus for M.A. The book catapulted me from an ignorant and somewhat insensitive Bong to one who not only empathised with the victims of the partition but also wished for history to change.

With the narrator being a nameless young boy I could feel as one with him seeing the events unfold before me. Though the book doesn't have a set storyline, yet the collage of events happening one after the other and even simultaneously forced me to sit up and feel every minute detail.

Tridib's lifestyle mirrors the mindset of the youth in calcutta in the times when I wasn't even born yet I almost felt like his friend sharing his life and times.

Ghosh has vividly narrated the whole story oscillating from the Present to the Past and then back to the Present. Though I don't remember the details,but what touched me the most was the part where Thamma goes to Dhaka to bring back her uncle. The way Ghosh has described the view from the aeroplane is marvellous. How just a line on the map can result in so much of bloodshed and violence is disturbingly thought provoking. From up in the air one couldn't even demarcate where one country ended and the other began. It forced me to contemplate on the futility of any kind of aggression over something which wasn't even there for one to see. How hatred clouds one's thought process and overshadows his sensibility.

Thamma's pain in seeing her house taken over by strangers could be felt deep within. Tridib's brave attempt to save May from the muslim mob in Dhaka and his susequent death stirred me from my emotional slumber.
The riots and the insane mob violence depicted in the book made me yearn to be out of it. I wanted the madness to stop, yet was unable to do so. The feeling of rootlessness of one forced to live away from his origins kept echoing in me the whole time. 'The Shadow Lines' affected me in an unexpected manner. The sheer horrifying depiction haunted me for days and sensitizing me towards our kind at the same time.

1 comment:

  1. Got this book from the then Calcutta Book Fair - I remember I had to proceed through it very slowly - it is not one of those books that can be stormed through by many - moreover, at times the book was not going too well with my sombre psyche and i had to struggle through it at times -- I remember my feeling of "accomplishment" when ultimately I reached the end.
    The portion where Thamma goes to Dhaka is one of my favorites.
    "Collage", as kaleidoscope says, is the right word that describes The Shadow Lines.There are myriad moments and emotions in the book that touch and move us deeply.
    The passage from the "present" to the "past" was challenging and intriguing for readers like me.

    I particularly loved the descriptions of the old Golpark and Southern Avenue areas- places where I have grown up.. places that hold some of my precious memories..