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Book Review: Subrata Dasgupta's novel 'Voice of the Rain Season' a journey of four generations of Bengali women, extraordinarily told
Published by FingerPrint! Publishing, Subrata Dasgupta's novel 'Voice of the Rain Season' is not an easy book to describe for it involves a journey that takes you back into time, spanning four generations and catapulting you into the epicenter of a Bengali family's long kept secret that is tied to notions of identity, homecoming, language, love and loss. [DO READ: The Amazing Tale of Peddabottu]
The telling of Subrata Dasgupta's novel opens in the US. The protagonist is Joya Bose, a twenty five year old Indian lecturer, who is living with Martin Shawncross, an American undergraduate student at the University where she teaches. Initially, Joya is surprised that Martin Shawncross is not only familiar with Rabindranath Tagore's poetry but is also passionate in his interpretation of it. She is delighted when he tells her that her paternal grandmother Manjula is a Bengali, who had married his grandfather, an American. Manjula's twin sister Nilima also becomes dear to her. The women discover, as Martin rightly told them when introducing Joya to them, 'she is a catalyst' and that's exactly what happens.
The book's driving force is Joya's powerful bonding with Martin's grandmother, Manjula. The dynamic between them compels us to travel back into a turbulent past that probes Manjula's identity, almost with the pangs of labour pain as we sift through the story's unexpected twists and turns.
We may, as readers, are likely to wonder why Martin Shawncross seems to blur into the background of the narrative as the story turns us back into the lives of women who are trying hard to revisit the past and come to terms with their pain.
As Manjula discovers her true story through the blurred, handwritten letters exchanged between her mother and her aunt, one feels gripped by the flow of the narrative. It becomes a flow of rhythm and melody, just like the irresistible pull of melodious music.
A memorable moment that struck a chord is when Joya meets her brother after many years and they part.
"It dawned on her that never again would she, her brother and their parents - and yes, her jetha, be a unit again that the family as they had known it, had taken for granted, was forever broken. That henceforth this was what their "family life" would be like, scattered over three continents, a life of long and permanent bouts of separation interrupted by fleeting gatherings, of arrivals loaded with delight and unbearably melancholic departures,...."
Joya Bose and Manjula are strong women who mark their presence through their vulnerability throughout the narrative. It's exactly what makes them real. Joya's personality is unique and so is her approach in tackling her identity crisis and in conveying it in a way that resonates with Indians who live across the world.
For instance, when Joya returns to stay with her parents for a brief holiday, she has to tackle the usual challenges that most of us do when we return home from outside India. Yet, like many of us feel strongly about our freedom and privacy yet we cannot resist being there with our loved ones at home, Joya too reiterates her love for Calcutta, which she considers her true home no matter how well-travelled she is.
But the real moving force at the heart of this intrigue is neither Manjula nor Joya - it is a woman whose name may have once been synonymous with what the world identifies and reveres as 'Rabindra Sangeet'.
And that's why you can't put down this novel easily. It haunts you long after you have finished reading and for this experience alone, give this book a big bow!
When you reach the end, you feel the pangs of pain and delight.
Then, it strikes you that the book's title ''Voice of the Rain Season' is more than perfect, for this is the essence of a true story that brought three women across continents to come together and find their true story: this is a story of families, of music that heals wounds that may otherwise have never healed and of endings that are imperfect, just as in life.