Kalindi: A River of Many Moods
Bharati Jagannathan
BLACK RIVER by Nilanjana S. Roy Westland Books, 2022, 330 pp., ₹ 799.00
March 2023, volume 47, No 3

Despite featuring in any number of literary works in English, Delhi never got to be immortalized in the definitive way that contemporary Bombay/Mumbai was in Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City. Black River’s title is, of course, a salute to Delhi’s river, Yamuna, one of whose names is Kalindi, quite besides the fact that pollution and effluents in the last few decades have rendered her nearly black. The city beside the dark river pulsates with life, with warmth and vengeance in equal measure in this novel. It is greedy with a limitless consuming appetite for both land and people. But the river is something else: she shimmers silver in one mood, broods grimly at another time, swells and distends in the monsoon, or snakes silently, powerfully, beneath its carpet of water hyacinths. Skimmers skim over her surface, cormorants spread out their wings like old women drying their hair. You meet catfish, frogs, and lizards, hear the nightly cries of the jackals and see their shadowy slinking forms from afar, sidestep the sloughed-off skin of snakes: each creature in its exact habitat, rendered with such masterly strokes that you thrill with a shiver of recognition at the acuteness of observation.

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