Review: Left From Dhakeshwari
By Kunal Sen: Grade A+
Mr. Kunal Sen is a multi talented personality. He is an investment manager by profession and an actor, director, writer, film reviewer and book reviewer by choice. ’Left from Dhakeshwari’ is a collection of nine short stories and his first solo book. When I read the name, I assumed that Dhakeshwari was a place, but upon reading, I realized that it is a temple in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dhakeshwari literally means Goddess of Dhaka, which I find interesting.
A collection of nine tragedies, nine stories; stories of urban loneliness, lust, death, obsession, memories and marriages, but found together in seductive melancholy when you are or when you have.. left from Dhakeshwari. The title denotes a dimension that’s both a time and a place: a point of departure and the forbearer of journeys. Pensive women with souls of poetesses and violent men with eyes of children, the characters in these interconnected stories are also in search, of a time and place they can call their own.
In ‘Bomb Church’, Aniruddha tries to piece together his mother’s identity after her mysterious departure; the only clues available in the existential whodunit being: a soap-box, a brown shoe and the statements of five witnesses, while ‘Salt Lake’ recounts an unusual affair between a girl with a three-inch scar on her cheek and a mime-artist with scars of his own.
Other characters in this collection include a runaway teenage-girl, an agoraphobic writer, a Bengali film actress, a sadistic guitar player, identical twins, a ghostess, and a manic-depressive housewife. These people are at that point in their lives when their cherubic idealism is beginning to fade into disillusionment. They are young but uprooted, rebellious but rudderless.
These are stories of their lives.
Let’s begin with the book jacket. A black background and a mime artist with closed eyes makes for an attention catching cover, and also goes well with the concept of the book.
The back cover gives the outline of the book. It’s a collection of nine short stories that straddle between the tragic, dramatic and mildly surreal, but it remains, in the end, a book about life stories of people who lived to their depths and failed in one way or another.
The short stories are more targeted than regular novels and ensure that the subtle moments of change are captivating for readers. If you believe that short stories are lighter reads and that you can read them in random order, I suggest not trying the same with ‘Left From…’ because it’s written in a specific order; one that shows how all characters are interconnected. Reading them one after another helps in understanding the relation between stories and characters. However, the characters from a story are only a reference in another, and they join the story at a point where you least expect them to.
Mr. Sen has chosen a Bengali background for most of his stories and the usage of so many native words provides authenticity to the characters. A glossary for such words is provided at the end of the book, so whenever you’re stuck on a word such as Choto Cheley or Didun, flip to end of book and search for the meaning.
Mr. Sen has done a great job with his remarkable language. Every story of ‘Left from…’ is so alive that you can actually see it happening right in front of you. Descriptions of places, emotions, the minute details and the psychology of characters makes for a perfect narration. The language is somewhere between the beginning and end; it keeps you dwelling between your own intriguing thoughts and the writer’s perspective.
Language is a major point of concern in most Indian authors, but Mr. Sen has taken it to a new height. His language is sharp, melodramatic, expressive and pensive. When there is a lesser backdrop, it serves as a counterfoil. There is no humor, no intentions of confusing the reader and no dramatic twists, and yet, none of the nine stories disappointed me.
Before concluding my review, I would like to quote Mr. Sen:
This is likely to resonate with anyone who has ever felt dislocated, loved Murakami, cried at nights, searched for happiness, drenched in the rains, written poetry on newspaper margins, including anyone born after Guevara’s assassination and before Babri Masjid’s.
To conclude, I’ll just sat that each story, every page, every line in the book is written in a very thought-provoking manner and after every story, you will find yourself engulfed with the characters depicted. If you want to read a book that is extraordinarily excellent, ’Left from Dakeshwari’ is just the book for you. It is a must read for everyone who understands literature…or wants to.