Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book review: Last Rites – Unforgettable people, unforgettable memories

Author: Kaushik K Ghosh
Publisher: CinnamonTeal Publishing
Pages: 179
Price: Rs 375

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Mumbai Mirror on Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 03:37:42 PM

There are writers and then are those who also want to write. Since the success of Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone, a new generation of writers in India, comprising bankers, doctors, engineers and students, have started serving your soul soups, memories, anecdotes and stories packed into books with glossy jackets and attractive fonts. Kaushik K Ghosh’s debut novel, Last Rites, is one such.

In the author’s note, Ghosh describes Last Rites as "a story weaved around an imbroglio encompassing a Muslim deaf and dumb man who lives with and dies in a Hindu family." Never one to take his religion too seriously, Bouka aka Asgar Ali aka Arun Kumar's death puts the family in dilemma – whether he should get a proper burial, in line with the customs of the religion of his birth, Islam, or whether he should be cremated for he grew up in a Hindu household. With such a storyline, you expect a tale of loyalty, love, rife, bondage and sacrifice. The story is real, or as Ghosh says, "Very close to my life." You think it will be packed with drama and emotion. But what you get is a dry, excessively descriptive, essay-like narrative that leaves little room for imagination.

The story disappoints because Bouka doesn’t have much of a part. The tale revolves around the narrator and his friends. In his attempt to create a flashback, Ghosh, jumps from one anecdote to another, without giving much thought to characterisation. Bouka could be just anybody. He remains in the background till his funeral rites take centre-stage. Ghosh offers too little, a little too late. By then, you want the book to end.

Ghosh isn't a writer. He's an IT professional, who wanted to put forth his bizarre but interesting story before a mass audience. He may have taken three years to write it, but it seems like he was in a hurry. And that's where the editors are to blame. They could have given him some direction and helped him with the storytelling. They could have re-checked those spelling errors and numerous repetitions that make the text tedious and at times, plain boring.

In the absence of a strong human protagonist, Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, where the story is set, develops a character of its own. Last Rites may not be of much literary value but it offers a slice of small-town India, its people, their beliefs, traditions and customs. The author has done well to describe the roads, the cinemas and hangout joints, the temples, the graveyards, the educational institutions and the beauty of the Chhota Nagpur plateau, which rarely feature in the mainstream media, let alone films. Ghosh also has the flair for digging up trivia and information. Perhaps, he should try non-fiction.

No comments: