Reviewed by Dr Usha Bande
Author: Sinjini Sengupta
Publisher: Readomania Publishing, 2017
Price: INR 250/-
When a debut novel grips your imagination and disturbs you for long after you have put it down, it certainly is a work to reckon with. Sinjini Sengupta’s Elixir belongs to this category. It grasps the fine line between dream and reality, light and darkness, and life and death to expose the turbulent psyche of its protagonist, Manisha. The novel’s subtitle succinctly classifies it as “A Dream of a Story” and “A Story of a Dream”. Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, A Dream within a Dream highlights the unreality of this world as ‘Maya’ (illusion, a dream) that is suggestive of the two worlds Manisha inhabits. Yet, to read Elixir as a dream-novel would be to limit its scope. To me, it is the story of the mysteries of the human mind told with masterly strokes. A whole lot of complexity comes to the fore and the novel turns out to be both delirious and dreary, constantly vacillating between the nebulous and the luminous.
In a way, Elixir is a quest novel about the protagonist’s journey to grapple with her self. In the bargain she loses her equilibrium and slides into neurosis. She is not psychotic, but she could well be a border-line case. The beginning encapsulates the problem of marital incompatibility and discord with the resultant silence leading to other complications. The labyrinthine structure is woven around the victim-protagonist and the plot navigates us through the work-a-day life of Manisha Roy, an efficient and award-winning executive vis-à-vis Manisha, the unfulfilled wife and dreamer in search of “pure happiness”.
What is this “pure happiness” she seeks? Do her dreams provide her an escape route from her agonizing existence? Will she find inner peace? A reader has to make his/her way through ominousness, sadness and mystery and get answers to these questions.
By Dr Usha Bande
Title: Mirror Image.
Author: Rama Gupta
Publisher: Prabhat Prakashan, 2017
Price: Rs. 500/-
Rama Gupta’s Mirror Image is a collection of 17 stories written in a simple narrative style, depicting realistic and actual scenarios and experiences that most of us past middle age go through (or have gone through). As the title indicates, the stories are a reflection of life; they focus on the spontaneous response of the main characters as they encounter small quirks of fate that have great implications in their lives. These are stories of men and women, mostly from urban upper middle-class but some represent different age groups and class like ‘Sumangali’ and ‘Bye-Bye, Blackbird’. The point of view is primarily that of the female narrators; the narratives delve into the psyche of men, women and children and as such, the portrayal revolves round how the principal characters respond to the attitudes and events in their lives.
Rama Gupta started writing these stories after her retirement, a time when many would close the logbook of an active academic life. Not Rama! She has always had dogged determination and ambition to do something new. In that sense, this is a big wish come true.
Of the seventeen stories, two stories fall neatly into the rapidly growing diasporic experience. The experiences of immigrants in a multicultural country like Australia are outlined in ‘Bye-Bye Blackbird’ and ‘Darkness under the Blazing Sun.’ One more story that is set partly in India and partly in Australia is ‘The Love of a Good Daughter.’ The average reader can easily feel the wistful, quiet sadness of the overall situation, and a reader familiar with the immigrant experience knows the truth behind the emotion of a parent who sees his/her child withdrawing into a shell; a well-settled man suddenly feeling lonely and helpless during a calamity, or a daughter settled in Australia being callously negligent of her mother who has come to help her with her new-born. Aannant gains his composure when the floods recede. Seeing river Brisbane flowing in its usual smooth rhythm, Aannant, after days of uncertainties, understands the significance of connectedness as he decides to help people to fight the aftermath of the devastating floods.
By Dr Usha Bande
Title: The Perennial Journey
Author: Mamta Sehgal
Publisher: Rubric Publishers (in association with Blackspine and Times Group), 2017
Price: Rs. 325/-
Mamta Sehgal’s The Perennial Journey is a collection of short write-ups. These pieces purport to demonstrate that you do not need to be defeated by anything; that you can have peace of mind and a never-ceasing flow of energy if you place your trust in God. Though the blurb on the book claims to take the readers on a spiritual journey, the author does not define or theorize spirituality. Written in a direct and straightforward style, these simple pieces guide the readers on the path of everyday life by invoking Krishna Consciousness. Mamta Sehgal knows that spirituality is not simply the opposite of materialism and also that no single definition of the spiritual way of life could suffice to convey its deep meaning. Spirituality is an active process and its objective is growth and transcendence. We, who are standing at the crossroads of material and spiritual realities, need to make a choice, to focus on our capacities to know, to love, and to trust justice, truth and peace. If we are able to do that, we have chosen a spiritual way of life. With narratives, stories and anecdotes from mythology and quotes from the Gita, the author tries to channelize our thought process. Each tiny piece that runs into a page and a half reflects on life, soul, spirit and the journey towards self-realization. Each page is a quest for Truth and the journey is ever-lasting — that is the ‘perennial journey’ of the title.
The book is divided in four sections: God, Soul, Life and Introspection. The sections are not mutually exclusive and together they create the conceptual reality of Krishna Consciousness where fear, expectations, greed, domination, violence and other aberrations of the phenomenal world vanish. Krishna Consciousness becomes the tool to help you carry on with your difficult journey. Consciousness refers to a state of being in which the mind is functioning in its clear, rational and inquisitive state. Consciousness begets change.