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  Books   11 Feb 2023  Book Review | Hard-hitting social drama questions privilege

Book Review | Hard-hitting social drama questions privilege

Published : Feb 12, 2023, 12:30 am IST
Updated : Feb 12, 2023, 12:30 am IST

Review of 'No Way In' by Udayan Mukherjee

Cover photo of 'No Way In' by Udayan Mukherjee. (Photo by arrangement)
 Cover photo of 'No Way In' by Udayan Mukherjee. (Photo by arrangement)

The novel, situated in Kolkata, begins with a domestic help accused of theft — wrongfully as it later turns out — that sets the tone for the plot as it captures the political, sexual and class struggles of our society in its narrative sweep. While Rana, the privileged, upper class, entitled bully is rather flatly portrayed, Sabita (the live-in maid), and her son, Dinu, are more fleshed out, with credible back stories to account for their behaviour and reactions to various events in the novel. Ila, Rana’s wife, exhibits a mindset quite typical of educated “enlightened, liberal” women of her class. While her heart beats for the under-privileged and she commiserates with Sabita over her endless cooking hours, in the very next breath she barks instructions for certain delicacies to be dished out as they are expecting guests. There are other instances as well and this essential contradiction in her personality and manner of thinking is a fact that Sabita recognises with all its ironical undertones. There is, however, no mistaking her genuine fondness for Dinu and Sabita as well as her anguish at the ways in which the working class are treated by the better-off, Rafiq’s manhandling by Rana being a case in point.

The tragic aftermath of communal violence; the upheavals and tissue of lies that has to be carefully constructed to be able to eke out a bare existence; the political manoeuvring; the difficulties of making one’s “way in” if one belongs to a certain class/religion; the cruelties that the poor are subjected to daily and which they endure without resistance for that is the only way they can survive — are brought out starkly in this hard-hitting novel which compels us to question certain unpleasant facts of our lives that we may have become oblivious to.

The book reads well, the events teetering towards a catastrophe from which there is a breathless recovery that may seem a tad neat and contrived. But ultimately, the bond that Dinu, the maid’s son shares with Shubho, the employer’s pampered and protected scion, shines a ray of hope for love, loyalty and humanity.

No Way In

By Udayan Mukherjee


pp. 254, Rs.799

Tags: book review, bloomsbury, kolkata