Neha Kirpal reviews Srijato Bandopadhyay’s A House of Rain and Snow (Published by Penguin Random House India, 2023), translated from Bengali by Maharghya Chakraborty
Srijato’s latest novel, A House of Rain and Snow, is his most autobiographical work to date. The journey of a young poet is lyrically narrated and beautifully written and makes for a rather pleasant and joyful read. Translated from Bengali by Maharghya Chakraborty, the story revolves around the protagonist Pushkar, a first-year student of geography. Pushkar lives with his father, a journalist who works for a newspaper, and his mother, a gifted musician, who sings at local concerts and teaches music at home.
A young Pushkar discovers his love for and talent for writing poems, which he hides from everyone – except Saheli, his school friend and confidante, whom he is in love with. Another of his friends, Abhijit, drags Pushkar to meet Nirban, the editor of a journal. Finally, Pushkar teams up with a group of first-year students, all of whose poems have been published in their own journal. Together, they plan to bring out a book of their own poetry – a book to preserve their memories of this time together. Throughout, Pushkar shares a strange connection with an old milkwood tree. He often talks to it, unburdening all his secrets and worries to it.
We encourage you to buy books from a local bookstore. If that is not possible, please use the links on the page and support us. Thank you.
Love for Books, Music, and the Arts
Needless to say, the author devotes much of the text to his love for books. Here is a snippet:
“The same book will come back to you at different times in different forms. And when you reread it, you will feel different as well. You will comprehend how much you have changed in the intervening years as a reader and as a human being. A few years later, if you read the same book again, you will find it telling you different things. This is the joy of reading books.”A House of Rain and Snow by Srijato Bandopadhyay
The author also talks at length about music. For instance:
“The heartbeat of a house of music is the sound of the tanpura. The tunes that flow from this four- or six-string instrument are the lifeblood that flows through the veins of the house. So, when a tanpura falls silent after a long stretch, everything in the world seems to come to a grinding halt.”A House of Rain and Snow by Srijato Bandopadhyay
Recommended Reads: Translations: The Talk of Publishing Town
Further, the author spends much of the prose talking about the beauty of literature and the arts in general. Here is an example:
“Different readers can travel to different destinations with the same text. What an incredible art form! Not just poetry, cinema, painting and many of the other arts behave in much the same way. The form is fixed, but through them, the reader or the audience is transported elsewhere.”A House of Rain and Snow by Srijato Bandopadhyay
Along the way, the author vividly describes various localities in the city of Kolkata, such as Mullick Bazaar and the red-light area of Sonagachi. In one of the chapters, Srijato also describes the ambience of the Indian Coffee House at the city’s College Street, on a rainy day – an atmosphere filled with literature.
The story has a significant portion of the author’s growing-up years sewn into its fabric, something that has not been so apparent in Srijato’s previous novels. “Never before after finishing a book have I felt this complete and yet this empty,” he confesses at the beginning of the book.
Srijato leaves his readers with this mix of wholeness and lack at the end of the book. “The only things I will keep for myself are a secret notebook; the roads of Kolkata; a lonely, time-worn milkwood tree, and a pair of windows, with rain outside one and snow outside the other,” he concludes.
Favourite Quote by Srijato Bandopadhyay
“Art can absorb all decay; in exchange, you have to give it your time and your soul.”A House of Rain and Snow by Srijato Bandopadhyay
Have you read this charming and amusing debut novel of a simple life in a small hill town? What do you think of it? Drop a comment below and let us know!