While cleaning and rearranging my books the other day, without thinking I selected the OST of The Namesake to play on the phone. Perhaps because it is mostly instrumental with just a handful of songs, and has always soothed me in the past. Also, I needed to focus on the job at hand. Even though it is one of my favourite activities, working all day, I was beginning to tire. So I needed the music to not be distracting but help me calm down, and at the same re-energize, if there is such a thing. When the album reached the end, and The Same Song played, I realized I had completely forgotten about its existence all these years even though the same singer (Susheela Raman) had sung another song in the OST which I had listened to just minutes before. It was as if my brain was refusing to connect the dots which is weird to say the least (not a good sign in any universe).
It was as if no time had passed, and I remembered the first time I had heard the song. I googled the year the movie had released, and it’s actually been over a decade since it released. I can’t be sure of the exact year I read the book as I wasn’t a member of Goodreads then. But I remember reading the book during college, and eagerly waiting to see the movie adaptation which I ultimately saw when it came on the TV. (If The Sense of an Ending and A Death in the Gunj didn’t release here now there was not even a sliver of hope of The Namesake releasing then.) I have a vague idea of the timeline. It must be scribbled in one of those notebooks I used as diaries(=journals) then. It will be difficult to mine out information in the old fashioned way, riffling through pages remembering which notebook I wrote what in (I tell you that’s half the battle won) even if I am orderly because systematic I am not, and my memory isn’t what it used to be (the unfortunate truth). Plus my diary handwriting is god awful to say the least, hurriedly jotting down before I forget things, and sometimes even I have trouble reading it. Go on, then, have a laugh.
I started Cobalt Blue written by Sachin Kundalkar (of Aiyyaa fame) in Marathi and translated by Jerry Pinto into English , before going to bed and couldn’t stop till I fell asleep (obviously). In the morning I finished the few pages that were left, wishing with all my heart I had more to go on as the day stretched on. It is a thing of beauty with simple uncluttered prose but heartbreaking since it is, after all, about heartbreak. Not the why, how and when of it, but something more organic. If you ever had your heart broken or stomped on or ripped out by somebody you will get it.
A paying guest enters into the middle class Joshi household and siblings Tanay and Anuja fall for him, each unaware of the other’s affair with the same person. He vanishes without a trace leaving these young adults heartbroken. How they deal with the memories and come to terms with it forms the story.
The paying guest is a painter, who is very comfortable with his own solitude and bohemian in his approach to life. Tanay was in the need of a friend. And, in walks the painter who Tanay instantly connects with and is drawn to, unlike anyone until now in his short life. Anuja was intrigued by the paying guest who was so different than anybody she ever knew and falls for him. Being unnamed added to his elusive nature.
The first part of the narrative is by Tanay, who speaks directly as if addressing the paying guest in words written or spoken. He remembers things from their interactions and tries to understand how he was in the dark. And at the same, he is processing his grief at being left so abruptly. The second part of the narrative is by Anuja , who in her diary entries, goes back and forth and tries to make sense of events that happened.
The book raises a lot of questions about what is acceptable in the society and how society impinges on individual freedom curtailing their desires to be sacrificed at the altar of societal normalcy. In the book, Anuja wasn’t permitted to go upstairs where the paying guest lived but nobody minded Tanay practically living with him.There is talk of a homosexual movement and there are meet-ups to discuss and do something about it which was a step ahead at the time the book was published, in 2006.
There were some Marathi words I didn’t know the meanings of and I took them to mean whatever it meant in the context and imagined it when I couldn’t get the meaning. I didn’t pause even when things resonated with me. Like, when Anuja is talking about why she puts a date on her diary entries.
As Jerry Pinto points out in the translator’s note at the end of the book, there are no timelines and no asterisks that demarcate the past from the present. There are no chapter endings; it all flows without chapters to guide you though Anuja has a few diary entries which are in chronological order. I realized how accustomed I’m to the breaks that chapters offer.
Reading about the events from both Tanay’s and Anuja’s perspectives made me think that it could all have been avoided if they had confided in each other. Siblings. Do they really know us? They know our daily persona, our habits but do they know about our inner world, our deep seated longings, burning hopes and dashed dreams. Rarely. Anyone who has grown up with brothers and sisters (identical twins are exempted) this would leave them with deep questions.
The book ends abruptly (or so I felt). I found myself wishing I had more details about the mysterious painter.
What does she keep scribbling in me all the times? Not that I’m complaining (in fact I love it) I’m always there for her, after all that’s my job.Though the world considers us to have no feelings (being inanimate and all) I feel every stab of pain, and every whoop of happiness by the words she chooses to write in me.
I like it when she takes her time and writes lovingly in me caressing the pages and feeling each and every word. The cool handwriting, the light slant of the pen shows me that she’s happy and good memories are being recorded. When the writing is irregular and sloppy and too much pressure is put on my delicate pages and it’s more scribbling than writing, I know she’s troubled and something bad has happened, which she is letting out of her system the only way she can. I feel sad when she gets like this but I’m relieved that she has me to help her get through any trying time in her life. She goes on and on for pages, and I know the end is near when her grip is not that hard and she writes at a slower pace, steadily empty of all negativity and almost always ending on a hopeful note. That’s one of the things I like best about her. She will start out a cynic and end a dreamer which is the only thing definite about her. All other things keep changing. She’s really mutable. A human yo yo would be more apt. One day she’s on cloud nine and the next day she’s down in the dumps, both because of the very same incident. What changes, then, is her perspective which is inextricably linked with her mood, the prism through which she views things and which colours everything. I really wish she’d be more optimistic and also more pragmatic. I worry about her but I know as long as she writes she will be just fine because that is the way she deals.
I wish she would write about her good days more. Not that there aren’t many good days but that she writes very few sentences about them (in comparison to the bad days) and ends them very soon. I wish I could change that.Not because I want to hear about good things more,I just want her to have vivid memories of good things so that she can go back to them later, and relive them. They will be her guiding light, her beacon, her light at the end of the tunnel or her silver lining, whatever you choose to call it, in the tough dark times and bleak moments. And of course it is the only thing that’s worth its weight in platinum when warm feelings of nostalgia envelope her.