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Updated: August 6, 2011 18:54 IST

Fragmented lives

SHEILA KUMAR
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Rupture, Sampurna Chattarji.
Rupture, Sampurna Chattarji.

A close look at havoc — internal and external — and the devastation it can wreak on people and places.

This work of fiction from poet, translator, short-story writer Chattarji is somewhat like the curate's egg: good in parts, execrable in others. A psychological narrative, Rupture traces the lives of nine people who look back with varied emotions at their past while attempting to deal with their less-than-peaceful present lives, all in a period of 24 hours. They take trips down memory lane in an erratic fashion, they live in the present day in a singularly inept manner. There is Neel, a media-person; Tennyson, a water diviner; Biswajit, a retired insurance agent; Partho, Postmaster-General, cineaste and totally Western in his outlook; Aslam, a gardener; Mehjubin, his wife; Nazrul, their son; Jonaki, a copywriter and Surinder, a car driver. So alright, they are the archetypal microcosm of society but at no point does the reader forge any kind of connect.

So. Nine characters, five cities. If the characters who people this book are deep, complex, it simply doesn't show; the water diviner Tennyson, though, is more than halfway interesting. Long periods of introspection that make for tedious reading are followed by bursts of frenzied movement. Rupture, says the author, is a book about normal, everyday people who are capable of great violence. Be that as it may, the violence imagined herein is way too contrived, then abruptly spewed out. Moreover, the book has been so over-written, with sudden unconnected flights into the ether, that Chattarji virtually kills both the premise and promise contained in it. The lack of humour all through also undermines much of the writing.

Collage with random pictures

If these are ruptured lives, the reasons they have become that way take such laboured telling that halfway through, the reader realises he/she just doesn't care. And the end, the cataclysm wreaked by Nature, comes in so surreal a manner, one is hard put to make sense of it all. Finally, it becomes one collage with random pictures, not one of them telling a coherent or sufficiently interesting tale.

Chaos. Disintegration. Fragmentation. All words that hold in them worlds of despair, all concepts that hold immense creative promise. That promise has not been realised in this book. There are some poetical bits that does catch and hold the eye for a while; ultimately though, those bits have nothing to do with the events unfolding on the page. Also, the kind of arrhythmia permitted in poetry is put to hard work in this work of prose, nearly strangulating the story in the process.

Basically, it's TMI. Too much information for the reader.

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