The Shadow Lines- Amitav Ghosh
I have been a fan of Amitav Ghosh, since the time my neighbor aunty,6 years back recommended me reading “The Glass Palace” by the author. I realized my love for his writing after a few days of completing the book, and now I can rightly say that his words grow on you, tingle in your mind and leave the impact of powerful writing. I experienced the same with “Hungry Tide” and now with “The Shadow Lines”.
Firstly, I really have to comment on how the book appeals, saying it differently written, will demean the theme and motive, so I’d rather put it as a perfect “unusual” writing, Why I mention unusual is because, the story runs in an indistinct format, scraping stories here and there, but what is perfect about it is that it never loses its sync, and although imprecise it connects beautifully. It never pretends to tell a story. It has a good start and ends well.
The characters are dense, like Ghosh likes it, probably! His characters might look stereotyped but they are always different. As it is a narrative, the book has the appeal of a diary entry displaying a lattice of memories. I liked the protagonist, Tridib. A likeable character and narrator seems to share a very special repertoire with him apart from being his second cousin, he provides him with knowledge in the form of stories which lures him, and he is always ears to his tales from across the world. Ila, doesn’t create a lasting image and is not in mind unless you are reading her. Then, there is Tha’mma (narrators grandmother), soft like every grand mom would be; but inside, a strong virtued woman who always stood out on her own terms, without any help from her family. A determined female, of living life on her own terms, and her profession does complete justice to her nature, a headmistress. She is strong willed to re-unite her family bonding and fights to connect the last link in the turbulent times of 1963-64 communal riots in Dhaka, which shows that no matter how tough she was on herself with regards to her relatives during her struggle, at last it is her home and love for the family that once again brings her to Dhaka, her childhood place, experiencing a very unfortunate moment. May, daughter of the Price family, and Tridib’s special friend is showcased as a very sensible yet interested person. Interested intriguely in knowing more about India and the people, are they just like what Tridib used to write to her. What happens when she comes to India? Is her sensibility really responsible for the circumstance she pushes Tridib and his family in?
The plot is divided into two parts “Going Away” and “Coming back”, and the book follows the life of a young boy and the various anecdotes of the family patriarchs (Dattachaudhari’s and Price’s) as a result of their long back-dated family friendship. The story gradually unfolds the dark sides of the events like, Swadeshi Movement, Second World War, Partition of India and Communal riots of 1963-64 in Dhaka and Kolkata (Then Calcutta), in which they lose some of their dear ones with an effort to re-unite the broken links of the family.
I feel that Amitav Ghosh’s writing is captivating, without maintaining a very grave tone all through he knows how to emphasize on the crucial topics, when the story needs satire and the humor, though less. Simplistic writing but very well expressed. He gets hold of me every time I read him.
No wonder it won the Sahitya Akademi Award.