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Monday, October 31, 2011

First Page Mondays: The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh


As part of the First Page Mondays here at The Book Worm, here's the first page from the book The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh.

'In 1939, thirteen years before I was born, my father’s aunt, Mayadebi, went to England with her husband and her son, Tridib.

It startles me now to discover how readily the name comes off my pen as ‘Mayadebi’, for I have never spoken of her thus; not aloud at any rate: as my grandmother’s only sister, she was always Maya-thakuma to me. But still, from as far back as I can remember, I have known her, in the secrecy of my mind, as ‘Mayadebi’ – as though she were a well-known stranger, like a filmstar or a politician whose picture I had seen in a newspaper. Perhaps it was merely because I knew her very little, for she was not often in Calcutta. That explanation seems likely enough, but I know it to be untrue. The truth is that I did not want to think of her as a relative: to have done that would have diminished her and her family – I could not bring myself to believe that their worth in my eyes could be reduced to something so arbitrary and unimportant as a blood relationship.

Mayadebi was twenty-nine when they left and Tridib was eight.

Over the years, although I cannot remember when it happened any more than I can remember when I first learnt to tell the time or tie my shoelaces, I have come to believe that I was eight too when Tridib first talked to me about his journey. I remember trying very hard to imagine him back to my age, to reduce his height to mine, and to think away the spectacles that wre so much a part of him that I really believed he had been born with them. It wasn’t easy, for to me he looked old, impossibly old, and I could not remember him looking any other than old – though, in fact, at that time he could not have been much older than twenty-nine. In the end, since I had nothing to go on, I had decided that he had looked like me.

But my grandmother, when I asked her, was very quick to contradict me. She shook her head firmly, looking up from her schoolbooks and said: No, he looked completely different – not at all like you.

My grandmother didn’t approve of Tridib. He’s a loafer and a wastrel, I would sometimes hear her saying to my parents; he……'

- Debolina Raja Gupta