Truly a great read! Something so noble!

  • Book: The Lives of Others
  • Location: Kolkata (Calcutta)
  • Author: Neel Mukherjee

Review Author: aditi3991



Supratik says,
“Ma, I feel I live in a borrowed house. It’s time to find my own.”
in his letter addressed to his Ma (mother), thereby embarking upon a journey to the land of red earth where the colour red dominates over green and blue, leaving behind the very comfort of his cocoon of love and security. They why does Supratik call his home as “borrowed”?

Neel Mukherjee, an Indian author, residing in London, has entranced us with his novel, The Lives of Others where he has introduced us with the face of every Bengali joint families in Kolkata (Calcutta), through the medium of his very own created, “The Ghosh Family”. Being a 21st century, Bengali girl, I must confess that the concept of joint family has become very much extinct in Calcutta and it is the uber-cool trend of generation of nuclear families. Although the author has time-travelled to the late 1960s to craft this tale of his, still after reading this book and about all the flaws of a joint family, it leaves you with a slight nostalgia and impression about the very concept of joint families.

Auguste Napier, an American author has said,
“In each family a story is playing itself out and each family’s story embodies its hope and despair.”

Similarly, in “The Ghosh Family”, each character has their own story to tell which altogether manifest a riveting chronicle in their four-storeyed house in Bhowanipore, Calcutta. From Prafullanath, being the head of the family, by standing up his own business to his wife, Charubala, in supporting her husband’s business through thick and thin, to his four sons and one daughter, Adinath, the elder brother, who gave up his dream in being an engineer and harvested an awful habit in the dark alleys of Calcutta, Priyonath, the second most elder brother, who allied up with his only sister, Chaya, and loved her like his soul mate, Bholanath, the third most elder brother, who harvested the “talented” under his wings and finally, Somnath, the youngest brother among the 5 siblings, who had never distinguished the good from bad and gladly followed on to the path to self-destruction, each character had their own agenda to secretive animosity to personal grudges amongst each other. But why? Well, as said by Prafullanath about his paper mill business that the first generation builds up the business, the second generation exploits it with their jealousy and with the third generation being just the meagre audience. From the outside, “The Ghoshes” tried to depict themselves as one strong-family standing united, but in the inside, without even their knowledge and realization, the earth was slowly moving away due to rage, hatred and jealousy with each passing day. Meanwhile, amidst of “The Ghoshes” internal wars, Adinath’s elder son, Supratik, leaves his home to join the extremist political activism of Bengal called the Naxalite movement, where a bunch of young men sacrificed their home, family and material needs in order to fight for those who cannot make a stand in the face of the world and remains ill-fated for the rest of their lives, thereby changing the world and providing equality to the peasants and the farmers class.

“The Ghosh Family” has proved that the politics of the family are the politics of a nation. Just as the authoritarian family is the authoritarian state in microcosm, the democratic family is the best training ground for life in a democracy. Neel Mukherjee has blended and portrayed both the external politics in West Bengal and the politics in a joint family very strikingly. With the choice of his eloquent words, the author has hatched a powerful tale which shows us the fractures in the Calcutta society and the desiccation in the soils of West Bengal.

The author’s prose is poetic and simultaneously depicted anger amongst the dysfunctional Ghosh family. What I loved the most is how honestly and vividly the author has unfolded the blight of “The Ghosh Family” with each of the psychologically flawed members of this family.

The Lives of Others weaves the differences between social and political, rich and poor, young and old, tradition and modernity and how compassionate steps should be nurtured among every strata of individuals in a society to bridge these differences.

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