In Review: Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar
By- Rahul Singh
How do you define grief? What leads to the emotion everyone wants to get rid of? The origin of grief has not only been discussed but have been a subject of scrutiny in multiple disciplines, even management. After all, it is a problematic state one feels an urgent need to wrap in a plastic bag and throw in the pyre of life to burn and magically vanish. All one wants of it to remain is the ash of its memory. The story of how this bird called grief was captured, maimed, slaughtered and made a delicious curry of to be savoured by the generations to come — ‘look, how she conquered her grief, rose against the odds and is now a successful mainstream professional’. How beautiful this story, how inspiring its lesson! Regardless of its origin, grief serves as an interesting ingredient only when it either comes to an end or it aggravates to something unimaginable or impossible. How often is it that one finds oneself in the fire of hell, burning or suffering for eternity? It is equally unlikely for one to get rid of one’s grief, especially the one caused by the estrangement of a loved one. This impossibility is what Cobalt Blue is about.
Rarely does it happen that a story hits you so hard that despite knowing the plot you end up devouring it like a man who’s been told that it’s his last meal. Tanay and Anuja are siblings and they fall in love with the same guy — their paying guest — and he leaves both of them for…well, nobody knows for what! This is all you’ll get to know about the plot-line after reading the book. You might as well read its back cover to get this information. If there is anyone who wants to know why books should be read despite knowing what is going to ‘happen’ in the book should read Cobalt Blue. He’ll get to know the power of grief. Not the dire consequences of its extremities but the simple, normal status quo of its existence. It is just there, lurking around. Not doing anything significant or marvellous but just occupying the hearts of Tanay and Anuja. And as if to make its presence even more quotidian, the story is told from the perspective of these grieving siblings. Tanay, of course, is gay and makes love with his beloved painter paying guest as it is allowed for him to visit his room because it is beyond comprehension for his parents that there can be anything sexual about the friendship he shares with the paying guest. Anuja, on the other hand, meets him outside and their romance is fueled by the usual idiosyncrasies of a heterosexual love affair.
Interestingly, it’s not the fact that Tanay’s romance is queer that makes his part of narration more intriguing. It’s his resolve to not give up on the grief and his unwillingness to ‘move on’ that gives his narration an air of acceptance of the status quo. Status quo of grief! It is almost unbelievable that someone can consciously decide to live with a grief-stricken heart without anybody having the slightest idea of its existence. In a society where it’s impossible to convince people that homosexuality is not a disease, grieving for a beloved who has left can be a joke at best. Tanay chooses not to convey his grief to anybody and silently recedes into his own world that takes grief for granted — a basic assumption under which everything functions.
Anuja’s story, on the other hand, is a bit more familiar. A girl whose loved one had left her. There is a vibe of Meera Bai’s complain in her narration. She is trying to make sense of what happened to her. How could she fall for someone so completely? Since her ‘extreme — lover running away’ falls in the realm of ‘normal — a guy leaving a girl’, she has the benefit of everyone’s sympathy. This is a familiar story for everyone around her. But does she want anyone’s attention in the first place? Is she even bothered about the suggestions of people around her? These are the question that haunted me while reading her narration. Though people might disagree, for me the story of Anuja is of trying to find a way out of grief while that of Tanay is of trying to make it a part of his life. It’s obviously up to the readers to decide which one’s more interesting.
This novel was originally written in Marathi by Sachin Kundalkar and translated to English by Jerry Pinto. I have read the translation of course and hope to read it again in Marathi at some point in my life.
About the Author:
Rahul Singh is a student from the batch of MBA(IB) 2017–19 in IIFT. He has been the Senior Cell Coordinator of Literary Cell IIFT. He likes to read of course. He believes that everybody should read poetry as it deepens his/her understanding of things going on around him/her.