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Down Memory Lane

Indu Liberhan

By Bhaskar Ghose
Penguin, Delhi, 2012, pp. 265, Rs. 299.00


Very captivating and entertaining, Teller of Tales goes down the memory lane of two friends in the civil service, the reserved secretive Arunava and the staid Tapan—a very close friendship at one level and full of doubts on the other. Adding to the mystery and charm of it all is a thread of romance. A beautifully crafted novel, it keeps the reader in suspense till the very end.   The author is a bureaucrat turned writer, actor and director of several plays. Threads of experience from all these divergent walks of life are beautifully interwoven in the fabric of this novel. The central character, and to a large extent, the central theme of the novel is the ‘story teller’ Arunava Varman. Arunava an IAS officer meets Tapan, another IAS officer, and they become good friends. The story progresses initially by way of anecdotes of their experiences with Arunava, of course, always wanting to top Tapan’s story with a more interesting one of his own. Arunava’s ‘tales’ are exceedingly well narrated. A fantastic storyteller, his storytelling is very ‘dramatic’. Winds his way upto the main point—the end spiralling through a lot of details, keeping the reader restless and eager to get to the end and then, the ‘bang’ or the ‘whimper’—be it the story of the haunted rest-house in Rambhi or the chowkidar in the old forest bungalow in Nilpara. The subject is not necessarily dramatic—the narration is.   The theatre world really comes alive in the novel. Although the author is a bureaucrat and has written about his experiences during his career, the experiences are more about his life in the theatre world than in the official one. All the major characters in the book belong to that world—Jaishree, Nan, Ron and a lot of tales, true or imaginary, revolve around these characters. That he has an in depth and intricate knowledge of the theatre world is very evident from his writings. The enumeration of the various plays they all performed, the camaraderie of the group, yet their occasional jealousies, the differences of opinion, the interpersonal relationships, have all been very skilfully and vividly brought out. The reader virtually experiences the whole process of production of a play—the rehearsals, actual performances, the celebrations and the postmortem, as if he was a part of it all.   The forays into the official world would be all ...

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