17 March, 2012

The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha

"...when you find it difficult to say something, when the words get trapped in your chest, your lips quiver, as in winter, you can always write it down."
I'd read it on a train journey.
Raj Kamal Jha writes exquisitely, there is little to doubt there. The attention to detail is awe inspiring and rather envy inducing "the black rubber bands that held her white socks in place". And he is a crafty writer, luring you by nuggets of familiarity in the same way one rejoices at meeting people and recognising oneself in them.

Set in the humidity of Calcutta, the book is in the form of words being fervently written by the protagonist as he sputters out his strange story. All in the span of one night. A baby lies near him and he is addressing it as he writes. The story is powerful and delves upon the delicate and contentious subject of physical intimacy between siblings (some threads reminded me of A God of Small Things). At times I wanted to read faster than the words were written, but the tone sometimes collapses into overt sentimentality, and sometimes, the reader is almost isolated as the protagonist moves ahead. However, for its calmly urgent story telling and perhaps because of its flaws, The Blue Bedspread is a book I wouldn't have wanted to miss.

For a taste, here is the first chapter.

"Like lonely lovers often do, I keep thinking things, I conjured up worlds where we were husband and wife, we had taken a house, all for ourselves, with a tiny garden in front."

4 comments:

  1. This book sounds wonderful! One of my flatmates in China was from Calcutta. Her mom cooked us the most wonderful meals when she was visiting. I'd love to go there someday.

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    Replies
    1. Nice seeing you here Sewon! Did you get to eat mashed potatoes with mustard oil and chillies? It's a personal favourite :) I haven't been to Calcutta either, someday hopefully.

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  2. I found the language so trite in this book that I had to stop reading after the first chapter. Maybe, I gave up too soon?

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  3. Hmm I didn't find the book outstanding (contrary to some gushing reviews I read about it) but I did like the language. Jha keeps it simple but I felt that was the strength of the story: it is a fervent letter to a newly born child, the clipped sentences reflect the author's hurry to get his story out. Maybe you can give it another try: it's a quick read if anything was.

    Aside: A book I have loved (style and substance) is Riot by Shashi Tharoor. Have you read it? Reflections?

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