Red Skies Falling Stars, Diti Sen, Jaico Publishing House, Pp 239, Rs 195.00
THIS is the story of a Bengali family comprising a father and mother and their three daughters. Rumi is the youngest born to this Bengali businessman of Calcutta. This family spends an idyllic life by dividing time equally between their sophisticated Calcutta home and the small mofussil town in rural Bihar, which is their holiday retreat and called Ghatshila.
Though the daughters are brought up in the lap of luxury, but in the convent school they are kept under the strict tutelage of nuns who do not think twice to suspend any girl caught talking even to a rickshaw-puller. It was commonly believed by the girls that there was some sort of ‘watch’ from the top of the school building which allowed the nuns to monitor the happenings on the road. “Life must have been quite tough for the holy ladies, watching unholy goings on in the street below,” Rumi thought.
The eldest girl, Anu, as soon as she enters college, falls in love with a boy with sharp features but from a very ordinary family. Rumi notices a sudden transformation come upon her sister when she sees Anu give up wearing pastel shaded chiffon saris to don simpler cotton saris. Prospective suitors come to the house to see Anu but their father whom they address as Baba, turns them away as he is the deciding factor.
Meanwhile the Naxalite movement is born and overtakes the city of Calcutta in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. Rumi notices her eldest sister Anu unwittingly getting drawn into its vortex, unleashing a chain of events that tears the family apart. Rumi notices that Anu and her friend, the youth from her college, are involved in some underground movement. Set against the violent politics of a movement that aims at redressing social inequalities, the story traces its direct fallout on people caught inadvertently in the crossfire.
The story traces the direct fallout of Naxal activities on people caught inadvertently in the crossfire and the tragic consequences, compelling a re-visiting of thoughts and attitudes by the protagonists and arriving at brand new destinations.
(Jaico Publishing House, A-2, Jash Chambers, 7-A, Sir Phirozshah Mehta Road, Fort, Mumbai-400 002; www.jaicobooks.com)