Monday, March 05, 2018

Book Review - searching for Durga Sabyasachi by Chandini Santosh

Photo credit HERE
3rd December 1984. As the world sleeps in the idyllic city, Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, India, a few things are happening which will put the city, as the worst case in human history when corporate and government connived to allow no action or justice to be brought to the thousands of people who lost their lives, limbs, eyes, and are maimed for life. In the night, early morning of that day, the tragic event of a poisonous gas leak from American Company, Union Carbide, is covering the entire city and rolling out in huge balls along streets, killing thousands of innocent sleeping inhabitants.

On the same day, there in the hospital Operation Theatre, Dr. Arvind Patidar conducts a cesarean section on a woman almost died. An 11-pound baby boy is born as his mother breathes her last. In the meantime, in the delivery room, a woman delivers a still baby. This is her 3rd time over. Dr Patidar has only a minute to write a death certificate in the name of Durga Sabyasachi, reading the name inscribed on a ring the lady lying dead on the operation table is wearing on her finger, before he rushing out of the OT and to another hospital where his own wife is about to deliver his child, too. It is nurse Nancy Varkey’s last day of work at the hospital, before she is off to a month’s leave, to get married. As she leaves the OT, two sets of men wait anxiously, to know their fate – one, having lost his child twice before in still-born children and waiting to hear what has happened this time, in the labour room. The other sent by their mother, to find out the same the same news from the nurse. Nurse Nancy, takes charge of the moment, as the hospital crowds up with dying patients poisoned by the gas in the air. She hands over the child born to the lady, in the OT to the man, who has missed becoming a father twice, handing over the death certificate to the other, saying both mother and child died during delivery. And she is gone to catch the bus, to her home. That day, she had only one thing in mind and that was her marriage. She had no clue that she along with many others, in that scene, that fatal day, would be revisited by the ghosts from the past.

After 26 years, Mohit Sabyasachi, returns to search who his real mother was, after his father, on his deathbed reveals, the secret of his birth. Mohit, now a photojournalist in Delhi, is obsessed to finds his real identity. He must return to Bhopal, to trace back the events that finally lead him to his real birth mother. He is aided by his fellow journalist and girlfriend, Pia Shanbhag and together they are able to unearth the finer details of the birth of Mohit Sabyasachi, and locate who his real parents were.

In a gripping account of one event leading to another, Chandini Santosh, weaves her story, skillfully, opening up the most intricate details of the lives of the characters in her book. The author has the ability to draw the reader into the tapestry of her story almost as soon as the book starts. Spaced between 30 years, the chapters go back and forth throwing light on the events in the past and the goings-on in the present.

Choosing Bhopal, 3rd December 1984 as the location and date on which her book is situated, the author has made sure that any mention of Bhopal & 3rd December 1984 would simultaneously, bring to mind, Mohit Sabyasachi and his heart-wrenching search for his identity, in searching for Durga Sabyasachi. 

The book is an example of what an individual will do and to what extent he will go to find the truth about himself. It portrays the extraordinary human need to define “Who Am I?”

Yet, it is the end, the brilliant display of love, respect and duty that brings the story to ‘closure’.

I only wish, the editing had been better. Also, proofreading errors; annoy the reader, ever so often.

Main characters: Durga Sabyasachi, Mohit Mehra/Sabyasachi,, Pia Shanbhag, Sabyasachi Mukherji, Dr. Arvind Patidar, Dr. Parikshit Shukla,  Nancy Varkey, Jalaluddin Farouqi, the Undertaker/gravedigger.

Chandini Santosh is a novelist, poet, and painter. She has three solo collections of poetry and two painting exhibitions to her credit. She is also the author of The House of Oracles published in 2016


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