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Dark Circles is a powerful read

Now I await for the author Udayan Mukherjee’s next book. I wonder how much more it will reveal of the man I never really knew.

columns Updated: Nov 03, 2018 18:28 IST
Dark Circles,Book review
It is a sad, dark story but one that forces you to think and feel as you get drawn deeper into it. I read it in one sitting. Dark Circles captured my attention completely.(Shutterstock)

Mine is an unusual column this week. I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. My intention is to reintroduce someone you know as an occasional columnist — or, previously, as a business channel market anchor — as a new and talented author whose first book, Dark Circles, has just been published. It’s a remarkable debut.

I’m talking of Udayan Mukherjee, the author of a column that sometimes appears on this very page. He’s a former managing editor of CNBC, in which capacity I first got to know him. At the time, I made daily programmes for his channel. We were not particularly close but we did have frequent contact.

Udayan’s columns are analytical and trenchant and often full of grim foreboding. In contrast, Dark Circles is a poignant and emotional book that tugs at your heartstrings. It’s both a simple and complicated story and I don’t want to give it away. Let me instead describe its different elements.

Dark Circles is about love and dislocation, parental betrayal and family discord, deep hidden memories and shattering revelations, losing your mother and then discovering you didn’t really know her, remembering your long-dead father and realising how well you instinctively understood him and coming to terms with yourself as you struggle to remake your life.

I had not expected Udayan to be capable of such deep complex emotions. Market analysts tend to be clinical and dry. If they have emotions, they suppress them. In Dark Circles, Udayan’s flow fluently. Few people who know him from his CNBC days would have guessed he had such emotional depths.

The other surprise is his delightful use of the English language. Describing the moment dusk turns to night in the Uttarakhand hills, he writes: “In the distance, the lights of Almora were slowly beginning to come on. Soon, they would begin to look like a swarm of distant fireflies.” I don’t recall the Udayan I knew talking in such evocative terms.

In fact, the misty mountain sunshine of the Uttarakhand hills is perhaps the only light in this book. It is a sad, dark story but one that forces you to think and feel as you get drawn deeper into it. I read it in one sitting. The book captured my attention completely.

Late that night, when I finished, I felt both sad and bereft. The first emotion was because I had been completely engrossed by the book’s tragic story. The second because I was sorry it had finished. It had dominated the last few hours and I felt a little lonely when I turned the last page.

I’m not a literary critic so I don’t know how Dark Circles will fare. Sometimes reviewers are so determined to make literary statements or simply show off they can forget the book itself. I can’t. It’s powerful and unusual, so different to anything I have read. So unlike the television anchor I worked with a decade ago. At the time I would have glibly said Udayan doesn’t have emotions. I would never have thought he could feel them so keenly or express them with such force.

Now I await his next book. I wonder how much more it will reveal of the man I never really knew? But of one thing I feel certain, his days of television anchoring and newspaper column writing will inevitably give way to the novelist that has just emerged. We are, I feel certain, on the threshold of discovering a new Udayan Mukherjee.

Karan Thapar is the author of The Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Nov 03, 2018 18:28 IST