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‘The Escapists Of J Mullick Road’

Hemalatha Sridhar

After the official launch of her book at the Tollygunge Club, another session on Usha Ananda Krishna’s ‘The Escapists of J Mullick Road’ took place at Oxford Bookstore.

In conversation with Anjum Katyal, the author addressed an enthusiastic audience and had a deep discussion about her latest work, its implications and its subject matter.

When asked, the author mentioned that she perceived the book as a quintessentially Calcutta book. She elaborated by speaking of how Calcutta overflowed with variety, comprising “great beauty in pockets” as well as “abject ugliness” in certain facets, and how she found this quality attractive. One cannot question her keen observation, especially noted in her descriptions of various areas of Calcutta in the 1980s, that were read out by Mrs Katyal.

One of the protagonists, Biren Roy, like the author herself, is an architect who possesses a trained eye that swiftly and accurately absorbs detail. The novel revolves around Pinaki Bose, a modest man, who wishes to build a house in the midst of an extremely communist-centric Calcutta, and seeks the help of Biren, who has his own issues. Pinaki’s daughter Dona and the party goon Kalol are also significant figures in the novel.

Usha talked about how the book was more about its characters than the plot. Their conflicts, relationships and moral compromises are noteworthy and also what propels the story forward. There is a constant element of surprise that clings to the characters that seamlessly blend with the vivid evocations of Calcutta’s landscape. A mood of nostalgia is seen to pervade the novel, as observed by Anjum and confirmed by Usha.

Upon being questioned about the importance of employing humor while writing, the author answered by saying that humor serves the purpose of making the discussion of something serious not veer towards the pompous.

The session was extremely interactive, consisting of an eager audience booming with questions that the author addressed with a blend of humility and interest. Anjum greatly contributed by making the interaction breezy with pertinent questions. The event was a great success also because of the topic of discussion which was so dear to all.