‘Bunny Suraiya, in a haunting, exquisite serenade, has written a history of heartbreak, tracing its subtleties through the metaphor of family, layer by layer, shadow by shadow’ – M.J.Akbar Calcutta, 1959… a time when the city’s social and cultural mosaic included Indians, the British and Anglo-Indians, who belonged to neither ommunity but claimed kinship with the English. The Ryans are a typical middle- class Anglo- Indian family. The head of the family, Robert, a senior executive with a managing agency, has dreams of going ‘home’ to England as soon as he can. His wife, the beautiful Grace, however, is unsure about leaving her comfortable life in india. Their two daughters, Shirley and Paddy, are meanwhile discovering new emotions and relationships which will make them cross invisible but inflexible boundaries. The Ryan household as included Ayah and her husband Apurru, a middle-aged Muslim couple who are making their own plans to go home – to an East Pakistan they have never seen. Also working in the same agency house as Robert is Ronen Mookerjee, the anglicized misfit son of a barrister who belongs to the Bengali landed gentry. Through the stories of these men and women, Calcutta Exile evokes a bygone era of one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the world. It also raises questions about individual and collective identities, the foremost among which is: where is home?
|Year of Publication