16 July 2010

Dreams in Prussian Blue by Paritosh Uttam

Different, and quite engrossing
This book, published by Penguin, carries the slug “Metro Reads” which inspired in me the vision of harried commuters engrossing themselves in the story to transcend the discomfort of their awkward, jerking, squashed-up positions. But it also made me a little uneasy about becoming the victim of a crafty marketing ploy.
Unlike many other books by Indian authors, however, this one is not trying to win an international literary award. It doesn’t want to impress you with how clever the author is. It is not a cathartic outpouring of personal experiences or any kind of attempt to preen. And though the author has a day job as a software engineer and studied at two big I.I.s, it’s not even about a publisher cleverly trying to create a new brand.
Most stories have been told before. But there are some writers who invent their own, starting with the germ of an idea and taking pains to craft and weave the threads that emerge, carefully defining characters and consciously attending to loose ends. Paritosh Uttam is one of these.
This book explores an actually rather fanciful theme, but is enacted casually in an everyday setting. I tired hard to find a hole in the plot but my every triumphant “Aha!” was followed a few pages later with an appeased “Oh!”
Reading this book, we learn a little about the world of art, the obsessive natures of those who believe they have a great gift, and even something about the reasons for which some wealthy people buy paintings.
Dreams in Prussian Blue is progressively inclusive of blindness, while sensitively exploring some specific issues blind people face. And I found it interesting – and reflecting of Indian reality – that both its main male characters are self-centred and exploitative while the heroine is hardworking, capable and extremely generous – but inattentive to her own needs, and easily prone to guilt.

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