Of life and living

Jahnavi Barua, who shot into limelight a couple of years back with her debut collection of short stories, had earlier this year released her second offering in the form of her first novel, Rebirth, published by Penguin. Though she had been kind enough to offer me a copy at the time of the book’s release, due to the various exigencies of life it was only recently that I managed to go through the paperback. But once I started, it didn’t take long for me to be overpowered by this gripping tale of love, redemption and self-renewal.

Rebirth is the story of a young pregnant woman, Kaberi, who is trying to come to terms with an unfaithful husband, an uncertain marriage and her own insecurities. The protagonist’s passionate communion with her unborn child reflects her frame of mind as she wades through the treacherous waters of love, betrayal, loss and self-renewal. Shifting between the urban bustle of Bangalore and the placid quietness of the Brahmaputra along urban locales in Assam, Jahnavi has weaved together an absorbing narrative marked by its lucidity and the profoundness of all that is left unsaid.

I guess the author Jahnavi Barua hardly needs an introduction. Trained as a doctor, she is now based in Bangalore from where she had written her first collection of short stories, Next Door, and which was very well received by critics and readers alike. Marked by her use of simple words and phrases, besides her disarming honesty, what sets Jahnavi really apart is her deep love for her homeland, something which she tries to reflect through the lives of her protagonists. The writer has done an excellent job in portraying the predicaments of contemporary urban life while at the same time, doing justice to her choice in maintaining her settings in Assam and parts of Bangalore, which the author professes to be her adopted homeland. From the abundant greenery in the grasslands of Kaziranga to the cosmic play of the nine planets in Nabagraha temple, her novel touches on almost all the aspects that a contemporary Assamese, or for that matter any person in the world, would be able to relate to.

Those who have read Next Door would identify Jahnavi as a sensitive writer. It is this very sensitivity – the writer’s subtle handling of human emotions while still maintaining simplicity in the narrative – that marks Rebirth.

Conflict, both internal and external, being one of the chief requirements of storytelling, is another area where Jahnavi has shown remarkable hold. Her subtle portrayal of conflict in the minds of her characters, especially the protagonist Kaveri, and the profoundness of all that she does not put in words lingers long afterwards in one’s mind.

All said and done, I would term Rebirth as a wonderful and moving book which has elevated Jahnavi to the top rungs of contemporary Indian writers in English.


Posted on May 5, 2011, in Concerts/ Reviews, Day-to-Day, Personalities/ Interviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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