Review: When Your Granny Was A Little Girl

On the occasion of my parents' 51st wedding anniversary, here is a guest post of a different kind. This is a review of Mom's memoirs written by Ritwik Mallik, a promising young (three bestselling novels old) author. Ritwik is currently associated as a content writer with a travel company in Delhi. His official bio mentions that he is a former School Captain of DPS Noida and presently a UG student at Hans Raj College, DU.

Ritwik Mallik

Sanskar Publications, 24 pages

Review by Ritwik Mallik

It is seldom that one comes across inspiring stories in our daily lives, let alone inspiring people. However, Manju Dasgupta is one such exception. Septuagenarian, Madam Dasgupta or MDG as she is fondly called, decided to pen her debut novel in a bid to share with her grandchildren priceless accounts of her childhood days. This was done in an attempt to bridge the gap that grandparents face in communicating with their grandsons and daughters in an age dominated by Facebook and other forms of social media.

The narration starts with the earliest memories of MDG and ends with the story of her father’s deteriorating health – a time when the author believes that her childhood ceased to exist. It is a journey of thirteen years dipped in history, nostalgia and most importantly subtle social messages which very few would’ve been able to pull off so brilliantly.

Family Matters

Families are strange things, and I have had my share of learning and unlearning about what families really are. Like halogens and noble gases, apples and roses, and Homer and Bart, poets and madmen have been instrumental in this learning. My family today includes each one of you in addition to the proverbial menagerie that our home and our lives have grown into.

A couple of weeks back, a group of poets were busy chatting outside Landmark Book Store after their monthly meeting to share poetry and poetics. Linda had just returned from launching her first volume of verse at Kolkata and was discussing the title of her next volume with Madhavi. Nivedita and +sandeep ingilela were busy comparing how getting married impacts poetic output. I was busy checking out the landscape for inspiration.

Nivedita is a poet, writer and a publisher who has been instrumental in getting many of us networked. She has already published three books. Linda edits a magazine on education and is an avid (and acclaimed) Haiku writer. Her book Significance of the Insignificant is a collection of Haiku and has nothing to do with Herodotus. You can buy her book online here. Sandeep is an artist, a poet, and a music buff who presently obsesses over animation and computer graphics. I am a self-employed full-time tea drinker. As we passed the smoke around, Nivedita mentioned that her next publishing project was going to be called Family Matters.

All of us asked in unison, "Why Family Matters?"

The Love of his Life

The worn out lines of the wooden table looked back at him as he sat warming his numb hands on a half empty glass of tea. He had driven as far out as he could from the city, and then turned off into the dark, losing track of time and direction, till he found this particular tea shop in the middle of nowhere. The owner and his wife were in the middle of an argument in a language he didn’t understand and a small girl sat at the back, her skin and her dress merging into the shadows, rocking and reading gently aloud from a book. He thought he heard a voice echo like someone announcing the departure of a train from a station. Surprised, he looked around. Then he realized it was the doctor’s voice still ringing in his head. He wiped at his oily forehead and sipped at the hot, sweet, milky tea.

subhorup dasgupta the love of his life

His life was one that was easy to envy, and many envied him too. He was looked up to for wisdom and prudence, and he was talked about for his gentleness and his compassion. He spoke kindly to everyone and people around him believed his life was as harmonious as one could wish for. Yet he knew how easy it was to both understand and misunderstand a language one did not know. The agitated voices in the shop distracted him for a moment. The shopkeeper’s wife was obviously calling the shopkeeper lazy, while he was denying it violently, pointing to various parts of the shop to show all the work that he did while she -- now he was pointing out at the darkness -- was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he was talking about her affair with another man. He smiled at the acrobatics that his mind was doing and told himself that, for all he knew, they were discussing who to vote for. Or more likely, where the next day’s expenses would come from.

There are truths that go to the grave with a person. And there are truths that can only be revealed after a person goes to the grave. It worried him that the doctor might actually not have told him all that was there to be told. Strangely, this thought led him to think of the many women he had desired in his youth but who had not felt that he was the one they wanted to spend their life with. In his mind, they had died, and each of their husbands, or fathers, or sisters, or sons, came to see him, to tell him, hesitantly, one by one, that it was he, and only he, that she had truly longed to be with. The shopkeeper and his wife stopped their discussion abruptly as they looked in his direction to see what he was chuckling about. When they resumed their argument, he was as certain as one can be that it no longer was one.

Horn Sutra: The Orgasmic Frenzy of Indian Traffic

I am not the envious kind, but I clearly recall a bad episode of it while reading +PURBA RAY's A-Musing for the first time. She already was a celebrated blogging phenomenon; I was green. If you have ever watched green turning green, that was me - now and then. Her way of making me laugh and boil at the same time, her casual yet profound, almost dummies-friendly, conversational style, had me hooked from the start - unlike many, perhaps equally clever satirists who leave you wondering what they are talking about. And no, that was not an obscure autobiographical reference. Like Anurag Kashyap and Shah Rukh Khan, she makes the most of meanings and words such as dichotomous. And as if her attitude wasn't bad enough, she has opinions too. Just imagine.

For a long time, she was just a writer I read and admired, identified with, and did not dare irritate or imitate. Little did I know that she has this way of slipping under your skin, subverting your thinking and making herself a part of your life - without you noticing it. I still remember that during my very first exchange with her about two years ago, I ended up chatting with her as if we knew each other for several lifetimes. That was when I realized how powerful her writing is. I began to see her mastery - making writing seem so natural and graceful, that the art is no longer visible to you. She makes you believe what you are reading are your thoughts, just presented cleverly and humorously, no big deal. To my mind, that is the goal of good writing, no big deal.

Picture of our family (foreground) with Purba Ray (background)

Must have been the greens in the cheesecake, but one fine evening, I asked her if she would consider writing a piece for Subho's Jejune Diet. A few days later, I found this in the mail. Without any further delay (it has already been sitting in my drafts for too long), here is Purba's take on the only thing that matters - survival.


Horn Sutra: The Orgasmic Frenzy of Indian Traffic

The 21st century saw many emerging traits, relegating the old ones to the dustbins of history. But we still insist on conning our newer generations into believing that the peacock is our national bird, even though all they see is crows and pigeons cawing and cooing and shitting on window ledges. The national animal is the near extinct Bengal Tiger, while mongrels continue to multiply merrily under Maneka Gandhi’s patronage. We now have a national insect – the deadly mosquito, a national pastime – outrage, and a national crime – rape. Our school textbooks, however, continue to focus on kharif and rabi crops and Gandhi’s satyagraha movement.

India has moved on. Her record keepers obviously haven’t.
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