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Notes of Nostalgia

Malati Mathur

By Jaskiran Chopra
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp.188, Rs. 395.00

By Ishani Kar-Purkayastha
Harper Collins Publishers in a joint venture with The India Today Group, New Delhi, 2011, pp.342, Rs. 350.00


The novel Autumn Raga by Jaskiran Chopra is imbued with tints of nostalgia—whether it is the protagonist's memories of a city and way of life that has withered away under the onslaught of modernity and 'development' or the harking back to past relationships and songs that bracketed as it were, the childhood and youth of Sunaina, around whom the story revolves. Having returned to her beloved Doon, Sunaina, fleeing from an unsatisfactory marriage, seeks to make a new life for herself in the town that is populated by memories. Although not officially separated from her husband, there is the need to get away from the stifling nature of the relationship and embark on a quest to find her own space and get her bearings. This she does with the help of her mother, Bhairavi, and childhood friend, Tanuja and, above all, her abiding passion for music whether Hindustani classical, Hindi film songs, Sufi compositions or lilting ghazals. Ranvir, the man she loved and lost, is a character who, in spite of his absence in Sunaina's present life, permeates her memories and thoughts specially those related to music. Interwoven is the story of their general handyman's daughter and her marital blues, resolved with sensitivity and compassion by Sunaina and her mother. Friendship is precious and to be cherished and the bond between Sunaina and Tanuja that extends to their families, is well-etched through the narration. They are 'soul sisters', to use a much clichéd term, and provide unwavering support to each other that does not however, preclude some plain talking when the situation requires it. Dehradun is almost a character in the novel, with vivid descriptions of a small town and golden-hued memories of the way it used to be—were not they all?!—and the changes that have regrettably come in the wake of a burgeoning population and progress towards a more modern lifestyle, accelerated even further by the status of 'capital city' conferred upon the town after the formation of a new state. It is as heart-breaking as looking at the ravages that time has wrought over the countenance of a loved one. The characters are all from everydaylife—they are all too human, with inherent frailties and strengths unique to each—and struggling to make life—well, livable. There is nothing extraordinary or larger than life about them. Their joys and sorrows are commonplace with no ...

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