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HindustanTimes Thu,25 Dec 2014

Review: Ships That Pass

Sunayana Rai, Hindustan Times   June 29, 2012
First Published: 19:22 IST(29/6/2012) | Last Updated: 19:22 IST(29/6/2012)
Ships That Pass

Shashi Deshpande

Price: Rs.221 hello

Penguin/Viking

Rs 295 pp 136

Ruminations on marriages, or the sense of claustrophobia that relationships can produce, have been the fodder on which literature has fed over the ages. When all is said and done, there is hardly any fundamental truth about marital relationships that has been left unsaid. And yet a marriage of two individuals is unique, and will bring with it a blend of happiness and disappointment and dramatic tension that is essentially its own.

Veteran writer and Sahitya Akademi winner Shashi Deshpande taps into the wellsprings of emotions that a marriage is capable of producing in Ships That Pass. The story, Deshpande informs us in the author’s note, was originally conceived and written in 1980 as a ‘crime’ story. More than three decades later, it metamorphoses into a novella, one that is a “complete story of love and mystery”. The story is unlikely to be affected by the intervening passage of years, she says, as human beings and the workings of their minds will essentially remain the same.

Deshpande manages to walk the tightrope between mining what is an overused trope without lapsing into the mundane. She writes about Tara and Shaan, an apparently ideal example of blissful matrimony, and Radhika, Tara’s spirited, sharp-tongued younger sister who ends up discovering the widechasms in the married couples’ relationship that will lead to tragic consequences. In the process, Radhika will discover truths about herself that will tear away at her youthful, sometimes flippant understanding of how relationships work.

The blurb on the book jacket that highlights Deshpande’s view on marriage as a “very strange thing”, a “closed room, a locked room”, does not do justice to the understated lyrical beauty of this novella. It is when we find Radhika dwelling on the past — “You can never lay ghosts to rest, can you? Push them into the earth, stamp them down, shovel earth over them, mutter prayers over them —but there they are, springing up again” that lingers in the mind when the book gets over.


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