Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 04/23/23 6:03 AM

Book review: Not Quite a Disaster After All

Belonging and unbelonging

Buku Sarkar`s intriguingly titled book Not Quite a Disaster After All traces the life path of a Bengali girl named Anjali from her childhood spent in a Kolkata manor to the NYC  neighbourhood which eventually becomes home to her,  some years later. The trail switches from an upper crust lifestyle to a gritty one, and as Anjali`s character comes open to the reader, quite like her story, we recognize it to be an organic process.

At the start of the book, we see Anjali as a child of privilege, with a sharply defined sense of entitlement as well as an equally sharp self-awareness, patronising poorer cousins and domestic help alike. That jagged shard of intelligence that is always part of the child, however, portends an interesting future for her, and we aren’t too surprised when we encounter her many years later, when an acquired surface polish melds well with her innate privileges in life. And no, there`s no checking of privilege here.

There is a strong strain of melancholia that runs through the stories, and this reviewer chose to see it as yet another natural outcome of sorts for those in search of their identity. That Anjali, and to a lesser extent her friend Anita, eventually develop a defined backbone is made clear but it is equally clear that their battles,  if not the war itself, are all hard won. Their vulnerabilities simmer just below the surface, and all the blasé attempts to display a world-weary veneer doesn’t quite hide those anxious nerves jumping all over the place. The two are constantly patching up the tears that frequently appear in the fabric of their lives, and the reader cannot help but sympathise.

Rocky relationships

Anjali`s rocky relationship with a junkie bartender is written about in such a forthright manner that all the bruises show. That too is the case with Anita`s less – than- ideal marriage, where neglect and disinterest now rule the roost. The final chapter of the book which is also the title of the book, is a cracker of a story where we watch the fortysomething Anjali seeing to just about every little detail of her book launch, in the process laying bare her vulnerabilities, her sensitivities, her ability to drive those around her mad.

The six stories in this novella might trace Anjali`s path but deliberately leaves it open-ended, art imitating life closely.

The jacket pic is a very eye-catching one. There`s someone lounging bare-legged on a bed, staring out at a bleak landscape of brownstone buildings. The reader immediately wishes to know who the person is, and just what they are doing with their life. Well, Not Quite a Disaster After All tells the reader all. Or almost all. With people like Anjali, some mysteries must remain.

 Not Quite a Disaster After All By Buku Sarkar. HarperCollins Books. Rs 499. 200 pages.

This appeared in the Sunday Express Magazine of 23 April 2023. 

Buku SarkarHarperCollins Booksinterlinked short storiesNot Quite a Disaster After All

Sheila Kumar • April 23, 2023

Previous Post

Next Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *