Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Thousand Unspoken Words

“Make change, be a part of change.”

There is no perfect man or woman in this world, and thank God for that! Here is a book that, once again, brings out this fact, as many others have done earlier.

 'A Thousand Unspoken Words' is a beautiful and apt title for a theme where the male and the female protagonists keep many vital thoughts to themselves, almost expecting the other to be able to read the mind.

Tilottama is the spirited modern heroine, feisty, yet afraid to take a step towards love. She is in love with a shadow, Musafir, an idealistic writer who wants to change the world. “He gives me a reason to love, to feel each moment of life, to write.”

She is level headed, but does have her moments of impulsiveness. When she runs into photo journalist, Riddhimaan, she is disillusioned with his frivolous attitude to life, despite the fact that it turns out that it is just a facade. "Somebody must have hurt him very badly. He has sad eyes that he hides behind his antics."

Riddhimaan’s mother, Krishnakoli Banerjee, comes across as a strong woman, a character that one falls in love with, for her sense of humour and her solid support of Tilottama, who calls her 'Mashima'. In turn, the older lady refers to Tilottama an Amazon, a warrior princess, which shines a light on the girl's nature.

Krishnakoli and Riddhimaan share a warm bond. This makes the ensuing events even more heart wrenching. Her banter with her son, her hope that she will marry Tilottama who is already like a daughter to her, and the losses she herself has borne in life make her hope that her son will not throw his life away.

The attraction between the two main characters is palpable. However, Tilottama’s heart belongs to Musafir, and Riddhimaan hates that, for he always finds himself wanting. He comes across as a tragic hero with dark alleys around him. Tilottama says at one stage, “I know this brings a rush of uneasy memories. But you have nothing to hide. You’ve worked hard to prove yourself. Why do you need to run?”

 Riddhi tells his mother, “She is beautiful, brave and intimidating. But she also reminds me of my past, something I sometimes want to forget. Tillottama and I will be a disaster.” Is this a hint that events may, perhaps, cast their shadows ahead?

The best advice that Riddhimaan gets from Shoumo Sen, Tilottama's father, is this. "Riddhimaan, if you ever feel that something is plaguing you just look at the ideas and beliefs you so love and try and become friends with them again. And then watch how magically things work out," The irony is that both Shoumo Sen and Riddhimaan have robbed Tilottama chances to love in their own ways, a point that comes across subtly.

The crux of the book comes across in a broken hearted Tilottama’s words. “He feels like…like I would always choose Musafir over Riddhimaan. In fact I've always felt Riddhimaan is jealous of Musafir. He has always wanted me to discard Musafir."

Will Tilottama be able to choose betwen the two? Is this a battle in her mind between the intellectual escapism of Musafir, or the irreverent instability of Riddhimaan?

There is much reality in this book - the plight of the farmers and hawkers, protesters being killed indiscriminately, concrete spaces eating away the greenery, land acquisition issues and police firing, displaced people, the ban of the English language and the vandalizing of a printing press. Paulami has incorporated these issues without sounding preachy, which is a feat in itself.

"If you are grains of sand, I will be the waves. Every time I come to you, you might push me away, but you would also mingle with me little by little until we both forget who the wave is and who the sand." 

It is lines like the above that reveal Paulami’s literary prowess.

Both Tilottama and Riddhimaan are irrevocably in love with the City of Joy.. Maybe why Paulami has written a love story in which the soul of her city, Kolkata, resides.

Verdict: Highly readable

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