When the Time Is Right by Buddhadeva Bose: Book Review
Buddhadeva Bose has enthralled me with his works of fiction. He is the true successor of Rabindranath Tagore and a master storyteller in his own right. When the Time Is Right is the first novel of Buddhadeva Bose that I have read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have previously done a short story analysis on Buddhadeva Bose’s short story called ‘A Life’; you can check that out for your reference. After reading Buddhadeva Bose’s short story, I was intent upon reading more of his books. I was sure I had copies of his books lying around in my many TBR (To Be Read) shelves, but I did not know where. Finally, two weeks ago, on a rainy Saturday evening after a hectic day of classes, I entered my office-cum-writing hut. It was on one of the shelves that I found this novel. I bought it from one of the many Ashish Book Centre Fairs I visited in 2016. I realized this because of the stamp on the book and where the book was placed on the shelf.
Buddhadeva Bose is lucid, poetic, emphatic, and has an excellent way of creating a bond with his reader. He enters the core of what it meant to be a Calcutta city person in the last two decades before India’s Independence. He knew what it meant to be from the middle class, a person who had to keep up with convention, and the personalities that caricature Calcutta life between 1920 and 1940 and a bit beyond, the place where our story takes place. The setting is simple, full of vibrant colors in itself, but most of the action in this story occurs in the Calcutta homes of the patriarch Rajen Mitra. But Rajen Mitra is not an ordinary middle-class Bengali man. He is a married man who adored little girls and was thrilled always beyond expectation at the addition of a newborn baby girl to his family. Remember, we are talking of an India that was still under colonial rule, and that did not offer its women many concessions or dignity. However, Rajen Mitra’s unselfish love for his daughters makes one’s heart thrill with contentment and immediately makes us like this very peculiar man who fathered a lot of girls.
In the story, Rajen-babu would go on to father five girls and only one boy. He was not very happy about the boy. He would have preferred if there would have been another little princess, but he accepted the son born between the fourth and fifth daughters. Here is a list of the siblings in line of seniority:
The youngest little girl, Swati, is our female protagonist. She makes the story move with her own story of growing up. She loses her mother when she is very young and is brought up in the shadow of an overprotective Rajen-babu and elder sisters as long as the elder sisters live in the family home because they too early in life get married one after the other. According to Hindu upper-caste custom, girls above the age of 14 years should be married off to prospective grooms. Rajen-babu is saddened whenever he is forced to send one more daughter away from his little fatherly nest. He tries to cling on to the last two girls, Saswati, and his favorite, Swati. He tries to get them interested in college and university education. However, Saswati marries a man from her friend circle, a hardcore comical but well-refined leftist. Saswati breaks her father’s heart. The only two young adults left at home are Biju and Swati.
What happens to Swati? Does she get an education? Did she succumb to the customs of traditional Bengali society? Or does something else happen? This is the focal point of the story. But the stories of the other four sisters color the pages as well. Two suitors are trying to avail of Swati’s attention – Satyen Roy and Prabir Majumdar. Roy is the English professor who loves to read while Majumdar is the boorish entrepreneur who hasn’t even passed his matriculation. Who will it be to win the willful Swati’s very complex heart? That is for you to find out by reading the book. If you love Indian fiction, especially something from a writer who is a stalwart in his craft, then please read this book!
As you can see, there is nothing unusual about the plot, but it is because of Bose’s lyrical style to describe the following that makes this story a beautiful work of art:
Bose does not just ‘tell’ in this book but ‘shows’; every thought is a work of sublime poetic epiphanies that just refresh the mind. Also, his stories deal with the artist in every one of us. He brings out our hidden desires and passions in a glorious manner despite all the constraints in his time. There is no sex scene in the book, nor even a kiss. Buddhadeva Bose has been meticulous in following Indian conventions in this novel, ” When the Time Is Right. However, there is that electricity between certain characters, especially between Swati and her professor friend Satyen Roy. You feel it because of the descriptions of their feelings for one another while they are close and far apart. You tingle with joy when they understand each other and laugh with them to see your self reflected in their coy behavior.
I loved this book. I have read a lot of books this year, and I promised a loud shout out every time I read an excellent book, and this book gets that shout out from me. It is full of the richness of middle-class life and conventions and is so beautifully crafted that you repose and read to your heart’s content. I feel that way whenever I read a novel by Rabindranath Tagore; now I think the same for Buddhadeva Bose. I want to commit sacrilege here by saying that I prefer Buddhadeva Bose to Rabindranath Tagore, but that is true. I have read a lot of Tagore from 2005 onwards. I accidentally discovered Buddhadeva Bose this year in 2020, and I can certainly vouch that for me, he is a master at his fiction craft.
If for nothing else, read Buddhadeva Bose’s book for the dialogues. I just loved the conversations in this book. The exchanges are so mature and convincing, and the fact is that we India still speak in the same manner. I would like to thank Arunava Sinha for his translation of When the Time Is Right by Buddhadeva Bose. He has done a par excellent job at recreating the dialogues to suitably conform with regular modern-day Indian colloquial English. Honestly, he has outdone himself with this book.
If you love family dramas, novels set in pre-independence India, and a story of a willful young girl with a mind of her own, then pick up this book and read it. For those of you who like a lot of subplots in your novels, well, there are some here, but they are not too complicated to drift away from Swati’s life as a young college-going arts student. I hope that you get a hand on this book like I did and read the magic that is the persona of a true Bengali fiction writer of lucid prose.
I am now on a quest to read more books by Buddhadeva Bose, so you haven’t heard the last from me. Today, I managed to flush out from my many shelves: My Kind of Girl and It Rained All Night.
Both are by my newfound author crush, and I will surely read them and then analyze them for you on my blog. This book gets five stars from me. I would have given it seven stars, but there is a limit on Goodreads and Amazon, so yes, five stars for Buddhadeva Bose. I’m not done talking about this book either, so this is not the last that you are hearing from me about Buddhadeva Bose.
I hope to spend some of my leisure time reading this literary giant produced by Bengal and dip in and out of Swati’s life whenever I feel the need to talk more about her and the tale of her growing up under the protection of a man; you can’t hate Rajen Mitra. If you want to know more about my bookishly delicious life in books, you can check out my memoir on Amazon Scenes of a Reclusive Writer & Reader of Mumbai; you will surely come to Goodreads with a lot of TBR books to read.
If you are interested in book reviews, book analysis, short story analysis, poems, essays, essay analysis, and other bookish content, you can check my blog insaneowl.com. If you want to buy my books, you can check my website fizapathanpublishing.us or fizapathan.com. Happy reading to you this week!
Copyright © 2020 Fiza Pathan
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