Love The Dancer With Seven Veils
Sumitra Kannan
THAT BIRD CALLED HAPPINESS: STORIES by Nabendu Ghosh Speaking Tiger, 2018, 272 pp., 350
March 2019, volume 43, No 3

Like a skilled gem cutter, Nabendu Ghosh in his short story collection That Bird Called Happiness: Stories facets and cuts that universal yet complex emotion called Love until it sparkles with brilliance, throwing a different light in each of the stories.

In ‘Lights!’ love is the pod of a tree waiting for the searing heat of a forest fire to melt its resin and release its seed. Umrao, a child born to abject poverty, bursts into an astonishing beauty in youth. A nifty move by fate and she becomes the highest earning star of the silver screen. Her combined allure of beauty and money is hard to resist and screenwriter Shaukat falls wildly in love with her. She in turn is moved by his poetic sensibilities. Reciprocating the feelings of the besotted lover, she marries him. Trouble begins soon after, for love is not a kitten to pet and play and shut away. Along with love, Umrao makes the acquaintance of its handmaidens—anger, hate, and jealousy. Her potent anger is out to destroy him. When Shaukat is shattered, a feeling akin to love passes over Umrao, miraculously. Is it ‘the evening sun that sings to the pearl in the oyster’ that has effected this wonder?

‘Full Circle’ is a beautifully crafted story set in restless Calcutta of Partition times. It tells the life of Sreedhar Bhattacharya, an upright schoolteacher and arbitrator of social problems in the village, and his daughter, the innocent Gouri Sreedhar. Bhattacharya is living a contented life when communal fury like a turbulent storm blows into his village, uprooting all that it passes. Sreedhar Bhattacharya’s lifetime work—his school, is razed down by foolish anger. To add to his misery, his young daughter is spirited away by miscreants. Writhing in agony Sreedhar Bhattacharya realizes that he has come full circle. His lifetime dedication to knowledge and learning has come to nothing. For, Karma is a mean bitch.

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