The first striking thing about AMALTAS AVENUE, Dr. Manju Jaidka’s latest novel, published by Lifi publishers Delhi is its striking cover, that has a city flyover in the background and yellow laburnum bunches hanging over, defining the geographical setting of this piece beautifully.
The author being a senior and accomplished academic herself makes the campus come to life in this latest book of hers.
The novel tells us that the title comes from a lovers’ lane on campus of the Panjab University in Chandigarh. Many characters live and work there and at various stages of the story the setting comes as alive as any other character in this interesting tale.
The novel has three parts divided into three days- Scorching Sunday, Muggy Monday and Torrid Tuesday and just like the names of the three sections the poet in the novelist takes over in the creating the impactful imagery of this book. Descriptions like the one excerpt below make even ordinary scenes have a long lasting recall value for any reader.
“Narendra notes, the bird more like an ethereal dancer, arms stretched out, pirouetting to unheard music. A ballet dancer, lithe and graceful. Isadora Duncan, hair flying, scarf flying, waiting to be entangled in a wheel. Isadora with long, flowing scarves waiting to choke the life out of her.”
Even a simple painting on a wall – Breughel’s Icarus makes its presence felt at critical junctures in the life of one of the main characters, Narendra.
The other characters of the novel like Charu, Atul and Madhavi are made to connect with the readers with their peculiar idiosyncrasies, their nicknames so common on every campus and a peek into their personal histories.
The novel places itself firmly into today’s time and age in more than one way. One of the characters runs a blog called bantusapera.com and the characters have Facebook friends and online interactions regularly.
Every aspect of the University living right from the happenings at the all-important Vice-Chancellor’s office to the research committees and the girls’ hostels are realistic to the core. Regular campus issues in any university in India like student indiscipline, academic frauds, office politics, manipulation in appointments and ragging are also dealt with realistically.
In the Epilogue the novelist skilfully tries to tie up all the loose ends in all the plots and
“The last blooms of the amaltas fall to the ground and merge with the rain and slush.”
The readers are left craving for more as they savour this gamut of multiple emotions –love, passion, sorrow, loneliness and despair all neatly packaged into the 262 pages of this brilliant novel.