Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Boat-Wreck- Review

After a boat wreck overturns his life, Rameshchandra Chowdhury mistakes young Kamala for his newly wedded bride. They move away from Calcutta to start a domestic life together, even as Ramesh is unable to forget Hemnalini, whom he was always in love with, but could not marry. Meanwhile, Hemnalini must steel her heart, whilst her hypochondriac father and hot-headed brother seek grooms for her. When Nalinaksha, a serene and influential doctor, enters the scene, fate decides to rock the boats again. 
Initially serialized in Bangadarshan magazine between 1903 and 1904, and then published as a novel in 1906, Noukadoobi was Tagore's exercise in psychoanalytical probing of an ensemble cast of characters, to reveal not just their individual pains and passions, but also the collective consciousness of the society of the period. Narrated in warm tones that reveal the tenderness of everyday life, and translated gracefully by Arunava Sinha, here is a story about love and sacrifice, faith and resilience that is timeless.

About The Author
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is India's greatest littérateur. The only Indian to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he wrote prodigiously and brilliantly across forms, including novels, short stories, plays, poetry, song lyrics, essays, travelogues, and even question papers. His works span an astonishing range of subjects, including humanism, love, family and society, politics, sociology, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, and religion. Tagore wrote primarily in Bangla, and his works have been translated into almost every major world language. 
Arunava Sinha translates classic, modern and contemporary Bengali fiction and non-fiction into English. More than thirty-five of his translations have been published so far. Twice the winner of the Crossword translation award, for Sankar's Chowringhee (2007) and Anita Agnihotri's Seventeen (2011), he has also been shortlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction prize (2009) for his translation of Chowringhee. Besides India, his translations have been published in the U.K. and the U.S. in English, and in several European and Asian countries through further translation. He was born and grew up in Kolkata, and lives and writes in New Delhi.

“Music is nothing but a matter of practice. Once a sense of melody has been instilled, everything becomes easier.”

Arunava’s adaption of Rabindranath Tagore’s classic ‘Noukadubi’ flows true to the above spoken words by Annada Babu, like a soft melodious tune. Renamed ‘The Boat-Wreck’, Arunava Sinha sticks true to the essence of Tagore’s sensibility, capturing the Bengal of early twentieth century, an essence wrapped neatly in time.

Considering its basic premise, it would be safe to categorize ‘The Boat-Wreck’ as a love story. However, the pages narrate tales that are unconventional. There are elements of mutual affection, trust, romance and also a tinge of betrayal, embossed in the backdrop of Tagore’s romanticism. ‘The Boat-Wreck’ is a story told in time, flowing with time, and finally emerging with its own realization against time. It is an episode of self-discovery amidst the tumultuous period of losing and finding oneself.

There are four basic characters in the novel with distinct identities of their own. Hemnalini is pretty, smart and confident. Like most of Tagore heroines, she comes with an innate sense of power that draws the readers towards her. She is loved by people around her, specially her father Annada Babu who trusts her blindly. Hemnalini has a soft corner for Ramesh, but it is very rare that she confesses this feeling openly.

Kamala is the second female protagonist of the novel. Unlike Hemnalini, she is not well educated. She is simple and has a childlike innocence that makes her the cynosure of the story. In fact, most of the narrative revolves around Kamala, her relations and her inner turmoils. Though she isn’t acquainted with the finer nuances of ways of the world, she has her own sense of practicality and wisdom that guides her through and helps her stay afloat in roaring tides.

Ramesh and Hemnalini share a mutual affection towards each other. They are all set to marry, when a cruel storm overturns their plan. Ramesh is kind, sensitive and affectionate. However, he can be blamed for indecisiveness and not staying firm to his resolutions. His sense of duty and responsibility urges him to accept Kamala as his wife, but his non-clarity of ideas get Kamala admitted to a school, so that she wouldn’t be near him. Both Hemnalini and Kamala are loyal to Ramesh till a certain point, but the cloud of confusion and self-doubt in Ramesh’s mind creats a maze for all, where the protagonists find themselves tangled.

We are introduced to Nalinaksha towards the latter half of the story. Gripped by a grief of his own, he has devoted his life to the services of people in Kashi. He is responsible, and is not afraid to speak his mind, even when his opinion differs from his mother whom he respects a lot. He balances his heart and mind, and takes his decisions only after proper considerations.

‘The Boat-Wreck’ reflects the chaos in the consciousness of the protagonists created by the turmoil of the tides. It lays bare open situations that no sane man would ever like to encounter. That is how life is, and the novel tries to depict one. However, coincidences and chance meetings often crop up in the story, which dilutes the mystery and creates a sense of predictability. That, though, doesn’t take anything away from the beauty of the plot, which grows on and on the readers, taking us to a mesmerizing ride, sometimes subtle and other times turbulent.

Title: The Boat-Wreck
Author: Rabindranath Tagore (Translated by Arunava Sinha)
Publisher: HarperPerennial
Publication Year: 2017
Language: English
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Fiction, Classics, Love
No. of Pages: 308
Price: Rs 299
My Rating: 3/5


  1. Since it came from Tagore's pen, it can't be below number one in rating. Well reviewed.

  2. Comment came twice. Anyway I liked the way you presented it.

  3. I really appreciate your professional approach. These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.