Book Review- Latitudes of Longing

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An unconventional creative piece with a remarkable narration. Shubhangi Swarup portrays a peculiar love tale of the couple; a scientist who studies Dendrology, and his clairvoyant wife who talks to trees and ghosts; each acquiring knowledge from the other. She takes us to the myriad of unpredictable natural and supernatural course of journey.

 

Latitudes of Longing, in four sections, is an impressive carve of characters fused with their intriguing bearings in different geographical locations, merged to become one whole story with a gripping connect.

 

The brilliantly conceived idea and styled story, begins in 1948, just after the independence of India, where Girija Prasad, educated in Britain, begins his newly married life with his wife, Chanda Devi, in the tropical island of Andamans, as a Civil servant with a task to set up National Forest Service. Both are immersed in their distinctive chores with pride. Chanda Devi, with her unique talent, finds an honourable place among the inhabitants, and is busier than her husband. The Islanders seek her advice, she reads minds and takes care of evil spells. Even the Forest Department entrusts her to cure a psychotic elephant.

 

The construction is informative with low zeal. Certainly, the distinguished approach keeps the reader hooked to the islander, Girija Prasad, entangled in a web of rustic emotions after the death of his wife and the birth of their daughter Devi. Rose Mary, their maid servant brings her up till it necessitates her to leave for Burma to get her son Plato, out from jail, whom she had abandoned as an infant, with Thapa, a drug smuggler. Shubhangi has given a vivid description of Burma’s troubled past. Thapa, later leaves for Kathmandu where he rescues Bagmati, a bar dancer.

 

The chain of events is set in the most imaginative string but has a cast of loneliness and gloominess all over. The entire storyline spells an arresting  account of nature’s bounty in an intelligent literary tone, predominantly expressing the topography and various forest creatures; an extensively researched routine state of affairs and emotions of people across Andamans, Burma, Nepal and snow clad Karakoram Mountains situated in no man’s land between India and Pakistan, in the Himalayas, where Apo, the grandfather of the entire village falls in love at 80 with the same age Kashmiri woman, Ghazala; marries after savouring the courtship.

 

The end of the story takes us to the beginning where the author unexpectedly binds Rana, the scientist, in Siachen Glacier, as Girija Prasad’s grandson.

 

The entire account delves deep into human psyche soaked in all nine emotions in human beings.

A gem added to the Indian literary world with aesthetic flavour.

Rating: 3.9

Pages: 331

Publisher: HarperCollins

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