Author: Saptarshi Basu
Publisher: Times Group Books
Love, romance and sex are authorial subjects that entice the reading populace in a big way. How else would you explain the mass appeal of books authored by Nicholas Sparks, Erich Segal, and Nora Roberts or let’s take a next door example (and a recent one) in Chetan Bhagat? Saptarshi Basu’s latest novel ‘Autumn in my Heart’ traverses this familiar route of romance on the busy streets of the gossip-mongering and ‘phuchka’ loving Kolkata.
Autumn in my Heart is composed of many narratives of individuals seen wrestling with their thoughts to attain the true meaning of ‘love’. We commence our journey as one of the detached readers trying to get a peep into the lives of a bunch of youngsters and their struggle to understand love. Slowly, we begin to find a resemblance of our own ‘love’ chapters (if any) in at least one of the characters’ stories etched out by the author.
A roller coaster ride: Deb, Ayantika, Sujoy, Saurav, Vinod, Sagarika and Tina are unique in their ways of overcoming the complexities of life, fighting career pressure, evading marriage blues and obeying family demands among countless other maladies. The essential quality that unites them all is their ‘confusion’. While Deb is the quintessential flirt who jumps at the thought of a cute girl with a pair of ‘hot legs’ as companion (but eventually falls in love with an ‘angelic salwaar-kameez’ girl,) the timid Saurav shivers at confessing his feelings for Tina. Vinod is the company head who is reclusive, stern and always irritated at Deb’s callousness and lack of punctuality. He has a secret he is unwilling to share. Ayantika is tired fielding regular marriage queries by friends and family who have taken upon themselves to hook her up with the most eligible bachelor in Kolkata.
Job or husband? The kind of frenzy that every Bengali household descends into, the day the daughter threatens to surpass the ‘marriageable age’ is hilarious to witness but horrific to experience. Ayantika finds herself neck-deep in a pool of ‘suitors’ she has been mercilessly thrown into to come out with at least one suitable ‘catch’. Her parents’ relentless demand to get her engaged to one such ‘suitable boy’ Sujoy, an engineer, frustrates Ayantika. She can’t decide which is difficult: clearing the Bank Probationary Officers’ exam or choosing a husband.
Love blooms online: It is amidst this chaos and cacophony that Ayantika ends up accepting an online friend request. This stranger and a virtual friend is none other than our very own Deb who stealthily makes room in Ayantika’s heart. Now the question that bothers the readers is this, “Does Deb (given his history of sexcapades) really love Ayantika or is she another temporary entrant in his life?”
Turning point at Kalimpong: A trip to Kalimpong at this juncture becomes the turning point of the novel. In the middle of a lovemaking session with Sagarika (someone he had met once upon a time), Deb realises how much he is in love with Ayantika and that he can’t deceive her. This change of heart in Deb made me ask the author himself about this sudden change of mind. “Deb had a painful break up with Priyanka that shattered him completely. After meeting Ayantika on web and slowly coming to know her, he found himself falling in love again…and also the actual Deb within…Guru Lama’s spiritual message too proves effective,” explains Basu.
Love in the time of Autumn: Like autumn is the intermediary season between summer and winter, Deb’s love too undergoes a transition from mere physical gratification to spiritual satisfaction. Vinod’s confession about his homosexual desires in Kalimpong and an unprecedented announcement of his wedding at the end of the novel again uses the motif of autumn. Sujoy’s hidden feelings for Sagarika (and not Ayantika) too follows the same ‘seasonal’ trajectory.
A little here and there: The theme of homosexuality appears to be included as a neglected passer by. We are not sure what made Vinod accept heterosexuality at the end. Was it really the Lama
who brought Deb onto the ‘spiritual’ path of love? Was Ayantika really destined to find ‘true’ love in Deb when she clicked a YES to a stranger’s friend request?
There’s an ‘autumn in every heart’ it seems!