Kritika Kapoor | Last Modified - Nov 06, 2010, 11:42 AM IST
Title: Black Light
Author: Rimi B Chatterjee
Black Light begins like any other urban Indian novel in recent times, with a hustling bustling newsroom where former wonderboy reporter, Satyasandha Sarkar, is now copy editing news stories on pesticides, budget reports and Indian scatological surveys.
But the focus soon shifts from thwarted dreams to the deep dark underbelly of not so incredible, not so shiny India. Medhashri Sen, Satya’s maternal aunt, is the skeleton in the dusty closet of his family. She is the girl who’d show up to her convent school’s costume parties dressed up like a witch, her husband called her a ‘dreamer’, like it was a bad word, before abandoning her altogether, and now her style of exit from the world, a suicide, breaks every rule of conventionality.
From here on the reader, along with Satya, will be propelled into uncharted un-chronicled history hidden in Medha’s artwork and her scribbling. Call it historical fiction, fantasy, surrealism or magical realism, Chatterjee provides fitting prose to each form the novel takes. She evokes vivid imagery where grenades unleash genies that she wishes could be bottled back in, and ‘black light’ as that blinding flash of light that lights up all the darkness within.
Through religion, philosophy, forgotten tribes and madwomen, the novel makes you travel far and wide intertwining the nephew’s journey with the aunt’s.
Chatterjee’ s characters are compelling — Medha is no ordinary woman, and her eccentricity is mirrored in the artist Potla (albeit a tamer version), it is translated into the characters of the story she weaves and it is what catapults Satya towards his bildungsroman.
Just like its title, Black Light, the novel throws light onto our world, and what we see lying bare under harsh UV rays is pieces of ourselves sacrificed to conform to the society and its rules, and the possibility of an alternative reality that Medha aspired for.