I have always been a big fan of Chitra BD’s books. I just love her style of writing – subtle yet extremely complex; descriptive, often to the point of being easy to visualize and yet shrouded with the human characteristic elements. When I read about Oleander Girl being on offer, it took less than a moment to decide on buying it. And there it was delivered to me within a day and in perfect shape with all the pages intact, very good condition (it was definitely not a defective copy) and a wonderful cover.
It took me about 4 days to complete the book. And…my respect for Chitra BD increased manifold. True, she has a style, a typical flow, a whole lot of complexities in her style of writing, but isn’t all that present in each and every one of us? The dualities, the contradictions, the extreme emotional challenges that she subjects each of the characters to, and of course the very typically “Kolkata” flavour, with a dash of America. The beginning, the description of the house appears similar to her presentation of the Chatterjee Household from Chitra BD’s other major book Sister of My Heart. But that is as much similarity as can be drawn between anything written by Chitra BD or by anybody else.
Korobi (A very beautiful and unconventional name to start with) is a child bought up sheltered by her strict grandfather, Bimal Roy, a lawyer by profession and almost by nature. With a knowledge that her father died before child birth and her mother during it, Korobi grows up, to find one fine day that he father was not the man she had known to be and might not be be dead at all. He was probably an American, nestled merrily in America, oblivious to his daughter. Urged by her desperate bid to find the person to whom her dead mother had so lovingly written a half finished letter, Korobi takes a chance of her life and sets out for America to find a man about whom she knows two facts – His name is Rob and he was in Barkeley around the time Anu, her mother, was there.
Her grandmother Sorojini, a stoic lady, who spent all her years in accordance to her husband’s wishes, almost believing that he cannot be wrong, ethically at least has sheltered Korobi all her life till Bimal Roy expires suddenly and leaves her with a host of challenges including monetary ones caused by a history of hidden skeletons in the cupboard. It is after Korobi leaves for America that Sorojini is left all alone to face a bundle of troubles left to her including handling Rajat, Korobi’s fiance, out of sheer love for the boy and chalking out a probable rescue plan for her husband’s ancestral home.
Rajat Bose, a young and dashing almost-lost-and-came-back-on-track man who is fighting against all odds to make himself worthwhile to his family and to the girl he has found to be his good luck charm fights ghosts from the past, his jealousies and insecurities concerning Cara (his own personal name for Korobi), a failing family fortune, and his own self. His parents Jayasree and Shanto Bose are a rich-and-yet-aware-of-their-realities couple who swing through their own crises to support their children and their decisions. Pia, Rajat’s little sister is a delight to everyone around, including Sorojini.
Chitra BD maneuvers deftly through the ups and downs in the lives of each of the characters mentioned above and also of side characters like Vic (Assistant and nephew of the American detective employed by Korobi to search for her father), Desai (The American Detective), Asif (The family chauffeur of the Bose’s who regards Pia as his younger sister and loves her as much), Shikha (Mrs. Bose’s personal secretary – in more ways than official), Sonia (Rajat’s ex-girlfriend), Rob Lancey (Korobi’s lost and finally found father), Mitra (The man taking care of the Bose’s American Art Gallery), Bhattacharya (the shrewd and conniving politician who suddenly has a change of mind thanks to Sorojini and the old and famous Durga Mandir at the Roy Residence) and a host of other small characters. And what has always been appealing in Chitra BD’s writing in the typically Bengali and Kolkata flavour that she retains in some way or the other. It never appears forced, nor does it ever appear incongruous.
Thanks Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni for a wonderful experience.