In our journey through life, books are our most sustaining and inspiring companions, seamlessly drawing us in their folds, enabling us to live myriad lives through their words and evoking feelings and thoughts we never fathomed we are capable of. Though reading any book can be an ennobling and enriching experience, in the wake of life when the dust settles down, there are certain books in the lives of each one of us which make us go back and refresh the pages for a word here, a feeling there, a chord reverberating in our sojourn of life which find resonance in our favourite books.
One of my all-time favourites, in the recent past has been Aruna Chakravarti’s Jorasanko, who effortlessly manages to recreate the inside of Tagore household, inhabited by women, all different yet, all strong and passionate and lending a powerful impact on their more illustrious male counterparts, befitting precursors to the onset of Bengal renaissance.
The family tree in the beginning of the book seem daunting and overwhelming but as we flow through the pages and the lives of the women inside the haven of the most illustrious household Bengal has ever seen, slowly we identify ourselves with the frailties, ambitions, vulnerabilities and assertiveness of the women, coming of age.
The wonderful delineation of characters does justice to all, lending them a wholesome three-dimensional feel, quite unmatched. Jnanadanandini Devi’s independent streak which broke the shackles of patriarchy and left her indelible mark on the life-style of Bengali women, Swarnakumari’s breaking into the literary bastion of menfolk, Digambaridevi’s refusal to accept her husband’s tryst with alcohol, the indomitable Jogmayadevi who stands up for her rights and splits the Tagore family in two halves and the gentle , melancholic, affectionate Kadambari Devi, Rabindrantah Tagore’s very own muse and inspiration and ultimately Mrinalini Devi, his wife, his partner who loved him with all the simplicity and unquestioning faith in her heart.
It is absolutely riveting how the story takes us through labyrinth’s of power corridors inside the eminent household where relationships are formed and hearts are broken, where talent gets wings and emotions are stifled, where dreams upsurge and hopes die, a dismal death.
So much so, that long after I had read the book , the characters stayed with me, spewing fire and breathing long sighs as I walked through the annals of the Bishwabharati museum during my maiden visit to Shantiniketan, this year. I was struck by how familiar the faces on display were, as if I knew the cause for their tears, the reason for their laughter, their motivations and their relationships and the compromises and break-throughs they made as daughters and daughters-in-lawof one of the most the illustrious families in the land. The book ennobles, de-mystifies, and weaves magic and is a must-read for anyone trying to better acquaint oneself with the literary corridors of Bengali literature.