Rs. 299 pp 256
The magnificence of all that Calcutta was is brought to life vividly and lyrically by Bunny Suraiya in Calcutta Exile. The novels theme is that of exile, centred around an Anglo-Indian family.
The father Robert Ryan longs for a golden future in England where he feels he belongs. His disdain for the natives, especially his more successful colleague Ronen Mookerjee, isnt shared by his beautiful wife Grace and his two spirited daughters. Grace is not averse to staying in India; and the girls become increasingly adamant that they will not leave one because she has fallen in love with the aristocratic Karambir Singh, and another because she has found a job as a singer.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the book is when Robert inadvertently goes through his wifes letters only to make a shocking discovery. Suraiya handles this with great delicacy and sensitivity. She brings to life the glory that was Calcutta with its clubs with sprung wooden dance floors, elegant eateries like Flurys, and the citys once gracious promenades.
It is in part a lament for a city she has left behind. As the book ends you are left with a yearning to know what will happen to the Ryans, to Ronen Mookerjee and his lost love. Maybe, Suraiya will come out with a sequel we can look forward to reading.