UNIVERSITY OF LOVE
by N.V. Subramaniam
Writers Workshop, Calcutta
Hardback Rs 350,
Flexiback Rs 200.
Available with the publisher at (http://www.writersworkshopindia.com/)
and with the writer at
5 H Vandhna Building,
11 Tolstoy Marg, New Delhi - 110 001.
The last two featured 'Book Marks' were based on bilingual poetry. This time we bring to you a veteran Journalist N.V. Subramaniam's first Novel - University of Love. Written in a crisp readable style, the story is both engrossing and thought provoking. The Novel is engaging and un-put-downable. As a journalist NV has an objective understanding of the Indian socio-psycho-political canvas which he brings to effective use in etching out the the characters authentically. NV has also completed his much awaited second novel, Courtesan of Storms. He is presently tightlipped about it. All he will tell you is that it is about "looking for love in a big city"
The Story of University of Love is about Chaman Keshwani, a scholar. Shattered by his father's suicide, and distraught by lost love, Chaman falls in with a tough, hard-drinking, hard-talking set, who take him on a new discovery of India. This is the India of the early Nineties, unshackled from its colonial past, but still coming to terms with its future. In its ultimately relentless drive towards new nationhood, old identities are ruthlessly crushed, and every new identity emerges with paroxysms of violence.
Each of the characters in the novel represent parts or whole of the old and new identities, and Chaman, the unformed, untraveled, inexperienced academic-to-be, is tossed between all sides of them. Philip, who most impresses Chaman, is a hard-bitten, police-hating, NGO activist working out of the country's most lawless eastern province, and there is some evidence of his hand in the murder of a rapacious landlord.
Philip's friend from the province, Ajay, a miner's son who has made good as a foreign wire-correspondent, gets hooked to insurgent Kashmir, drawn by its wild beauty and the final tragedy of its people, and somewhere in his mind, he sees Kashmir as the escape from his own destroyed marriage. Preet, on the other hand, a gorgeous hunk of a co-traveler, unsuccessfully tries to replace sex with love, and progresses to irrelevance as a mindless devotee of squash.
Through Philip, Preet and Ajay, though M and R, the two women in Chaman's life, and via sensitive men like Pradeep, an editor victim of the Emergency, Jayant, a guilt-ridden administrative-services officer, and Ben, a tribal sub-nationalist, Chaman is confronted with a violently-new India. His father's unfinished manuscript on the Mutiny, where Chaman, to Chaman's dismay, is the chief character, and an English colonel the lead narrator, inevitably impels him to draw parallels between 1857 and the present, and those parallels rarely hold, although he reaches a rare and dramatic understanding of colonial violence.
But in his self-assigned task of completing the manuscript, Chaman also arrives at new layers of comprehension of his father's dark side, and his deathly struggles to come to terms with his sexuality, bound by the orthodoxy of his island home in the Indian Ocean. In this self-discovery, the discovery of his tragic tradition-trapped father, and in the discovery of his old home country, India, Chaman also senses the first awakenings of a spirituality he has never known to possess.
But it does not yet leave him prepared for the final fate R, Rita, his friend of the Ridge and other lonely lovely places, has chosen for herself, to die aborting her aging lover's child with spina bifida. In their doomed drunken last conversation in his father's favourite salad bar, Chaman comes face to face with his own hopeless youth and the infiniteness of R's Love as she prepares to give up her life for it.
About the author:
N.V.Subramanian has published his first novel, University of Love, with Writers Workshop, Calcutta. A former Roving Editor for the Calcutta magazine, Sunday, he has been a senior staffer with several other Indian publications and written for LeMonde Diplomatique, Sunday Times, London, and military journals. He edits a strategic affairs website.
N.V.Subramanian was born on 1 December 1958 in New Delhi and lives in suburban Gurgaon.
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