Book Title: Missing
Author: Sumana Roy
Total Number of Pages: 267
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Publication Date: 20 April 2018
It is the summer of 2012. A young girl is molested in Guwahati in India’s Northeast, journalists take photographs and make videos of the incident, but no one tries to rescue her. The monsoons have arrived, and Assam is flooded, as it is every year. In Siliguri, Kobita, a fifty four-year-old activist, married to Nayan, a blind poet, decides to travel to Guwahati to search for the molested girl who has gone missing. Before she takes off she leaves instructions to have a new bed made. Because of his disability, Nayan has no option but to depend on the carpenter and his family to trace his wife after her phone calls stop coming. There is a riot in lower Assam from where Kobita last called her husband. While Nayan grows desperate for news about his missing wife, their son, Kabir, is in England, absorbed in his research about Hill Cart Road, the highway that connects Siliguri to Darjeeling and the eastern Himalayas. Missing is about seven days in the lives of these people. It is a study of the modern marriage, played out against the awareness of the question that gave birth to the Indian subcontinent’s first epic, the Ramayana: What happens when a wife goes missing?
REVIEWED BY SOHINEE DEY
Sometimes, you read a book that leaves you in awe. Even after you have finished reading the book, it still sticks with you for a very long time and you keep processing the story over and over again. ‘Missing’ by Sumana Roy was one such book for me.
This was my first book from this author and saying that I am impressed with her writing will be an understatement. Now that I have finished reading ‘Missing’, I’ll go ahead and get my hands on her first book ‘How I Became A Tree’ which was published in 2017.
As for the story, the well-written blurb pretty much gives away what the book is about. Published by Aleph Book Company, ‘Missing’ tells the story of Nayan, a blind poet, his activist wife, Kobita and their son Kabir. Set in Siliguri, the father-son duo is left to worry about Kobita’s whereabouts when she leaves for Assam, particularly, Guwahati to search for the molested girl who had gone missing. Being an activist, she takes social issues very seriously and as her family likes to put it, she often times is much more concerned about strangers rather than her near and dear ones. Before leaving for Guwahati, Kobita left instructions for a new bed to be made.
When there’s no contact with his wife, visually-impaired Nayan doesn’t know where to begin searching for Kobita. Being blind, he has always been severely dependent on his wife Kobita. He is even unsure about whether or not he should lodge a complaint of her going missing but then he remembers her disapproval the time he had lodged a complaint in the local police station of her gone missing.
At first glance when I first read the title, ‘Missing’ to me was a crime/thriller of sorts with a fifty four year old woman gone missing while searching for the molested girl who had also gone missing. Now that I have read the book, I can see that ‘Missing’ here is more about a husband missing his wife.
Nayan tries to get some news on Kobita from newspapers but then being blind doesn’t help so he hires Tushi, to read him the newspapers.
Apart from Nayan, Kabir and Kobita, there are other characters namely, the carpenter Bimal-da, the caretaker Shibu, Bimal-da’s assistant Ahmed, Bimal-da’s granddaughter Tushi, a gardener and others. Different characters hold different personalities which reflects the types of people in our society. Through the characters, the author has managed to show the discrimination between a rich and a poor and also between people practicing different religions, discrimination based on caste. The book also sheds light on politics and the media which concentrates more on murders and news related to politics rather than putting up something good happening in the country.
A research scholar, Kabir is settled in England. Seemingly unaffected by the news of his mother gone missing on the surface, he doubts if his father is involved in her going missing and living in the 21st century, he takes to the internet hoping that he would find some news of his mother.
The whole story unfurls over a week, i.e., July 24 to July 30. Everything that happens in the book, happens in this week’s time.
The narrative portrays beautifully connects reality with fiction and hence, it was so easy to get into the characters’ shoes. Being acquainted with the places also helps. While Nayan comes across as a loving and caring husband and was also the most developed character in the book; for an activist, Kobita comes across a bit aloof and dominating, maybe because she was missing in half of the story. Even when through the narrative we get to know that Nayan and Kobita have had a good marriage, it isn’t exactly shown.
The pace of the book is relaxed and steady. Nowhere, does the pace quicken, it stays the same throughout the story. The narrative leaves off a feeling of melancholy.
POESY IN CHRYSALIS RATING : ⭐⭐⭐.8 / ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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