THE book under review is a new addition to Chatterjee’s earlier volumes on sketches. She writes in this volume that the sketches are meant “to introduce the reader to a wide range of people and places.” The range is truly wide and impressive, for she writes about people from several parts of the globe. After meeting them once or several times, she writes about them with delicate care, illuminating one or several aspects of their personality, and helping the readers to see and understand what is so striking about them. The people include friends and colleagues known over time-Hede, Auntie Gauba, Toni Mazumdar, Lisa, Miss Wilson, Pauline, Peggy and many others-students, obviously remarkable ones, such as Yael and John or Peter della Santina, or some teachers like Heinz. Sketches stimulated by specific occasions include a refugee on the bus and an elephant on the road. She also writes about memorable trips to Dhaka and several other places where she went to attend conferences.
Quite often, Chatterjee’s sketches take on the coloration of a short personal essay, which is suggested in their titles: “On habits,” “On names,” “On saying goodbye,” “In praise of letters”, “On horses,” “On being dated,” or “Being on the platform.” Based on actual experiences, these sketches combine description with reflection. In “Being on the platform,” for example, she writes about the changing face and form of the platform over time.
The “Conversations” is a serious dialogue between three academics-Jacob, Edith, and Martin-about issues and concerns that have been touched upon in the sketches.
Chatterjee writes with care and love and with and humor, too, but the gentle human touch is the most remarkable quality of the Sketches. It should be of interest to all kinds of readers.
(Promilla & Co. Publishers in Associate with Bibliophile South Asia, C-127, Sarvodaya Enclave, New Delhi-110 017)