(Niyogi Books, ISBN:978-93-83098-84-2)
Koral1A book review, that also of a fiction, is an intriguing task for me. Decades earlier, in my school and college days, I was terribly fond of fictions. Crazily, uncontrolled tears would often roll down my cheeks in my school days at the slightest hint of an impending tragedy, and alarmingly the habit, though to some lesser extent, continued to my college days! So, hiding myself from others, unable to confront someone with wet cheeks while reading a novel, I always read alone,in some crazy corner of my home! In some afternoons, I would take an unfinished novel poised at an exciting stage to the nearby planted forest area, and absorb the novel all by myself under the shade of a tree. But, at later stages of college days I slowly shifted to non-fiction, and these days I only read non-fiction of the more serious types. I can not even remember when I read the last fiction, may be 30 or more years back. So, reading a fiction and reviewing the ‘Fall Winter Collection by Koral Dasgupta’ was quite some voluntary task at hand. Ofcourse, no one should expect me to be professional. My point of interest in this work of fiction is that the novel is built up with Santiniketan as the prime catalyst. The review naturally will be highly personalized; just about how I felt going through the novel; certainly a critique’s perspective should not be expected.

I was fairly inquisitive about this novel primarily because of its Santiniketan connections. In earlier decades, and one relatively recent, I have come across 3 novels in Bengali set in Santiniketan, read all of them, and found them to be detached from the place hovering into highly personal surrealist realms. Frankly speaking I just could not connect with those. The most interesting part of ‘Fall Winter Collections’ is that the novel manages to connect with the typically casually laid out intellectual space of Santiniketan of 1970s to 90s with remarkable ease. The different planes of intellect of the two chief protagonists of the novel, manages to interact with elan, which was essentially the hallmark of yesteryear’s Santiniketan. I do not know how much of this intellectual fluidity exists in Santiniketan now, perhaps it does, may be it does not! In that case, the novel can also be treated as a part of intellectual history of the Santiniketan psyche. I am thankful to Koral Dasgupta for reminding me of the intellectual roots of Santiniketan.

A fiction is essentially a fiction, a story, infact a love story, told with fairly rapid pace of expressions. The speed of the text is good enough to keep the reader absorbed in the flow, another plus point about ‘Fall Winter Collections’. There is hardly any dull moments in this journey. I was also fairly amazed at the analytic stance of the present generation (Koral Dasgupta is much younger to me, I reckon!) to every senses they percieve. The intellect of the present generation remains analytic to the core. Most importantly, self inspection, I understand, remains the essential element in today’s context. Being from different decades, I was fairly deeply engrossed in the analysis of human senses, of existential validity of the self and the surroundings, a relatively new arena for me to explore after 30 odd non-fiction years! Perhaps it is the trend of modern fiction, or it is the unique and very sensitive handing by Koral Dasgupta according to her perception- the new exploration for me was very interesting indeed. I learned quite a few things about the shapes of minds and times of these days. Intriguingly individualistic indeed! In that sense ‘Fall Winter Collection’ manages to portray two individuals in lovely nuances of their own intricate selves.

The novel, though intellectually fairly sophisticated, is not exactly an intellectual saga. It is purely a love story. To keep the spirit of ‘love’ steadfastly alive, even within the intellectual and often highly personalized framework, is perhaps the best achievement of the writer. Personally, as I was always very fond of love stories which tweaked my emotions, I am really appreciative that ‘love’ after all has been credited the final destination even by the younger generation writer, Koral Dasgupta. That she has taken so much pain (or joy!), to etch out ‘love’ from the myriad of constraints and conflicts of present day intellect and persona, is really a spirit to cherish. I hope she keeps this spirit unflinching as an writer in her future ventures. Courtesy the social media, I happen to know Koral Dasgupta to a very little extent, an ex-student of economics department(1998-2001) Visva Bharati, and would like to take this opportunity to convey my best wishes to the writer, for this particular spirit embedded in her creative thinking. After all nothing is really relevant in a place or a time, it is the spirit that counts.

From the intellectual space, Koral Dasgupta manages to take her two characters Sanghamitra Banerjee of the Economics Department of Visva Bharati, and Dr Aniruddh Jain Solanki, a sculptor at Kala Bhavana, to their personalized planes rather effortlessly. The analytical mode then becomes personal, delving into the nuances of personal feelings. Here the speed of narration slackens a bit. It is a intriguing task to adjust the pace of narration, while in personalized domain of characters. This can be a very interesting aspect for Koral Dasgupta to ponder in her future writing ventures. The change of speed of narration, a very powerful aspect of this novel, is however discernible and the reader might need some adjustments here. This makes the novel a bit two-paced, similar to a river, when it slows down to reach the destination from its jostling early stage. The change is weaved along with an attempt to blend the traditions with the convictions she digs deep into her characters, framed in modern times with the characteristic conflicts, with very keen sensitivity. This adds much character and subtle new dimensions to her novel. It is also very refreshing to cherish, the spirit of inquisitiveness and exploration of the individual human self to blend with family traditions. Even with a very limited exposure to modern fictionalized literature, I somehow had the idea that modern characters in novels remain somewhat hazy, with undefined self realization, unspecified convictions, and infact, this conflict of existence often remain the chief driving force of the story. It was a very warm gesture from Karol Dasgupta in preferring to keep the convictions deep rooted in her characters with very subtle sensitivity to traditions. The several dimensions added to the novel makes ‘Fall Winter Collections’ a complete reading experience.

Personally, I loved the novel. The remarkable speed of narration, inspite of change of speed at final stages-intentional or unintentional, makes the reader keenly engage with the book. The style of narration is brisk, to the point, but with wide area of cognition brought into the ambit of this journey of love. There are innumerable philosophical and personal posers thrown into the plot, again with casual dexterity, which can make the readers quite a bit introspective about their own selves as well! I had to ponder on some issues, and contemplate my own philosophical and even personal stance vis-a-vis life and society. These intelligent intermissions within the narration was really refreshing. As the novel ‘Fall Winter Collections, by Koral Dasgupta, deals with Santiniketan with rare fluency of spirit, the book is a very intriguing read for anyone related to Santiniketan, physically, emotionally or intellectually.

Koral2Koral Dasgupta: Author of internationally acclaimed book on Shah Rukh Khan, titled ‘Power of a Common Man’ is a Marketing Consultant by default. An ex-student of Economics in Visva Bharati, Koral Dasgupta in her first fiction, pays her tribute to Santiniketan, the land of art,music and poetry. Link to her own words on this book-

Shubhashis Mitra
Ex Student, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan.

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