An atlas of impossible longing happened just
naturally for author Anuradha Roy. The novel grew out of an image of a large house half-submerged by a river. It was a haunting photograph of an actual house that had to be abandoned by her aunt’s family.
The book starts in 1907 and goes right up to the 1950s. It traces in its pages the lives and travails of a family over three generations. Amulya is quite a reticent man. A visit to a small town of Sonagarh changes his perception completely. He feels a certain kinship to the ruins, the life and the atmosphere there and decides to set base there. But this change from Calcutta did not go down well with his wife Kananbala, a young bride forced to stay at home. Slowly madness sets in and Amulya tries desperately to figure out where his young wife had disappeared gradually.
The other pivotal character in the novel is Mukunda, a boy abandoned by his parents. Amulya takes responsibility of the child and later on his son Nirmal does too. Growing up alongside Mukunda in the house is Bakul, Nirmal’s daughter,who uses photographs to enter the world of her dead mother.
The story does not feel too ambitious to begin with. In thefirst half Roy brings to the fore issues of patriarchy, the ill-treatment of widows, the stigma against patients with a mental condition and life during the British Raj, but then a flood happens and changes the whole scope of the story.
Roy’s characters are the highlight of this book. The women especially cry out for attention. Be it the mad Kananbala, the lost in time Mrs Barnaum, the oppressed Meera or the rebellious Bakul, each have a tale to tell. Roy also effortlessly weaves in the history of India, which she says is what also affects her characters. For example the riots during the partition, thecaste divide and the surveys done by the Archaeological survey of India etc. Though there is ambiguity in the relationshipsin the novel, Roy makes sure that it has optimistic ending. For by her ownadmission, her attempt was to show the possibility of friendships betweenunlikely people and the importance of relationships. For a debut Roy definitelydeserves a pat on her back.
Name: An atlas of impossible longing
Author: Anuradha Roy
Publisher: Hachette India