Later, as he says, he overheard a group of people talking about saving a water body from some unscrupulous builder and started keeping tabs on them. Not because he was interested in saving the environment or even that small little lake. What did interest him were the disparate lot of people and some desperate ones among them, who were determined that they were going to save a stagnant water body, which in the author’s opinion had outlived its usefulness as anything at all, from becoming an office complex.
This is not a Builder v. Helpless Citizen epic. In fact that is the least important part of the book. This is about a group of inept people who you want to reach out and protect but you discover are more than capable of taking care of not just themselves, but of you too.
In the voice of his protagonist, the author decides to answer what was meant to be a rhetorical question, by launching into the history of the Howrah Bridge – the third-longest cantilever bridge at the time of its construction, thereby alarming his mostly quiet co-passenger and colleague of ten years.
From there, he delves into the back story of said colleague, winding his way around to the various other people who form the narrative of the book. Like his slow journey through the bridge traffic, he takes his time to unfold their stories and build them up as the eccentric characters they are meant to be.
He paints each scene with bright shades of tongue-in-cheek humour, paired with the most colourful Bengali phrases that dazzle his prose. I am not familiar with the Bengali language, thus the glossary at the end of the book was most helpful in deriving a full reading experience. It wouldn’t be the story it is, without the originality of the language, which proves its own inherent role.
The pages turn themselves at a foot-tapping pace as the reader gets wound up in the hilarious turn of events created by the seemingly ordinary Chingdi Kaka, Banshi Mama, Ashutosh Babu, The CM, and many more entertaining people.
I also couldn’t help but notice that the book is edited extremely well, absolutely flawless, something that I have rarely seen from Indian publishers. I only recommend that the glossary be more extensive to include other Bengali terms and phrases which are currently missing explanation. It would make a world of difference for readers who do not understand Bengali.
Cantilevered tales is a story about the quirks of ordinary citizens and their response to situations around them, which in turn makes them the people they become. All laid out with generous servings of wit and humour.
What Author Kripalani has created here is a literary masterpiece, as evident from his writing style that spotlights the sociopolitical theme he has chosen. Right from the pond caretaker, to the members of the Bird Witchers (you read that right) Association or the outrageously comic Oleek Babu, every person you come across is endearing.
Cantilevered Tales is clearly my choice for must-read novel of the year and goes right up to the top of my list of favourite books.
Title: Cantilevered Tales
Author: Jayant Kripalani
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars
Available on Amazon.
About the Author: Jayant Kripalani is an Indian film, television and stage actor, writer and director. Known for his performances in television series such as Khandaan, Mr. Ya Mrs. and Ji Mantriji, he graduated from Jadavpur University with a degree in English Literature. He has played character roles in movies like Heat and Dust, Rockford, Jaane Tu. . . Ya Jaane Na, 3 Idiots and, most recently, Hawaizaade and The Hunger.
He had directed and produced a number of films and is actively involved with theatre. He wrote the screenplay for Shyam Benegal’s film Well Done Abba.
He is the author of the heart-warming and nostalgic New Market Tales, set in the historic New Market area of Kolkata in the 1960s and 1970s. His recent foray into writing performance poetry has brought him acclaim in poetic circles around the country.
When he is not in Calcutta, he is either fishing in Himachal, pfaffing in Bombay or being a beach bum in Goa.
To connect with him, find him on Twitter @JayantKripalani.
Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com