Sandip Roy’s debut novel
Book Review by Chumki Banerjee
Contents of my Cousin’s mind
The God of small smites, senseless slights, secrets, lies and blighted lives
My Indian fascination
Though I am of Indian extraction, my parents separately tore up their roots and transplanted themselves in England’s fair and pleasant land, while still striplings themselves.
Renegades, running from restrictions, headstrong hooligans, when their retrograde paths collided, two atoms never destined to combine in a culture where intermingling was primarily elemental; arranged within same caste; fizzed with irresistible attraction of opposites, fused to form new molecule. Bonds already stretched, irretrievably broken, these two radicals floated free of an ancestry that could not comprehend this new compound.
So, before the seed of me was even planted in their minds, the history book of my parents’ lives had been torn into tiny pieces, scattered leaves carried away by winds of change.
Born in fresh soil, watered by clouds that had never held monsoon rains, or been evaporated by exotic sunrays, though England is my home, all that I know, a germ of me remains un-bloomed, retains a remnant of genetic memory, which tugs at my subconscious, exerts a fascination for a country which I cannot call my own, yet is buried in the marrow of my bones.
So, over the last few years, as Indian authors, in the ascendant, have blossomed in our bookshops, I have attempted to greedily consume their words, incorporate their heritage into a psyche hungry to fill an awning gap, to extract and clarify the essence of a familiar scent which clings to my consciousness, drifts through my dreams, lingers at cusp of comprehension, mirage which eludes, just out of reality’s grasp, captivating me with ripples back to a past I will never realise.
Estranged as I am from specific ancestry, Don’t Let Him Know, though not autobiographical, is a very special book to me because, as my closest cousin, the contents of his head penetrate mists, grant me a glimpse into my genetic heritage, especially as this is a cousin with whom I share a spectral connection, beyond bloodlines and his uncanny resemblance to my brother. This is a book, which though peopled with fictional characters, is set in real places, evokes anecdotes and atmospheres which permeate my memory, from encounters with this extraordinary cousin and the country which made my parents; which answers many of my questions about how cultures and religions affect real day to day lives, in a way I can directly relate to.