The novella by Ansua Dutta — The River Dolphins — is an excellent reconstruction of time, allowing a permeable and enchanting space for the readers to delve into history and envision future at the same time
River Dolphins' is a novella with a difference. The author is a riveting storyteller who weaves unalloyed emotions into the living texture of her yarn with admirable finesse. The story unfurls itself through the soulful and kaleidoscopic recollection of the past. Ostensibly, it is the story of Mohan – the pronounced protagonist of the novella, but it is also the saga sprawling over three generations that lived through several significant watershed phases in Indian history. History functions all through as an animated backdrop which goes into the making of Mohan and his childhood peers. The last days of the British Raj, the frenzied and fearful turbulence of the Naxalite movement, the decline of the feudal system, burning social issues generated by the livid fervor of the freedom struggle, the sheer atrocity of the communal riots – all this is organically absorbed into the timbre of Mohan's life.
History revives the past but interestingly enough, the storyteller, like the Roman God Janus, also chooses to look forward to the future from the vantage point of the present.
In this novella, time is structured with amazing dexterity. Time is endowed with fluid resilience, easefully oscillating to and fro as it flows in and out and beyond the chosen temporal frame, reaching onto the fathomless continuum of timeless time. And thus, braving and blurring the fragile borderlines, it creates indefinable magic space.
The lyrical interludes strewn in between the narrative tell us that magic, fantasy and romance are more than a colourful strand in the variegated mosaic of the story. It tells us that it is preeminently the story of the narrator's mindscape. It is the sojourn of the narrator 'I', the author's second self, as it were, meandering through the chiaroscuro of the past, the present and the future.
Some moments of epiphany are kindred to Proust's 'A la recherche du temps perdu' but as the reader delves deeper into the picturesque and intense narrative, the novella turns out to be a many-layered piece of art. It comes to an end with an open-ended epilogue which again is magically many-layered in terms of time and space. The wheel comes full circle; the fusion is complete.
'The River Dolphins' reads like a symphony. The dolphins are the leitmotif which continue to reverberate like a musical refrain all along. The River Dolphins feed, soothe and comfort your soul when you need them. And, when they swim away, they carry your worries with them.
Views expressed are personal