Millennium Post

Soul curry in Sin City

Journo girl moves from metro to metro and men to men to find herself. With sex, sadness and songs thrown in to bulk up a one-line story. You have met her before. Or may be you haven’t. Because Sreemoyee Piu Kundu’s first book is more than a mere addition to the new Indian fiction shelf of your neighbourhood bookstore.

Faraway Music is about journeys undertaken. Journeys through space and time. With no fixed address.

In a trans-continental flight, celebrity writer Piya Chowdhury meets budding journalist Sumaya Jehangir Atif. Atif seeks an interview with Piya. A ‘soul journey’ exclusive where the writer lays bare her heart. And the reporter saves her job. Piya ignores her at first. ‘I am not comfortable subjecting myself to an examination under harsh lights. In fact, to be honest, I’ve never got accustomed to the stifling silences, to the affluent aloneness of fame, to everything being a best-selling author eventually requires,’ she says.

But open up she does.

She was once a journalist herself. She knows the hunger. She has felt the pangs. In a technique reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s Nayak where on a train journey a matinee idol bares himself, warts and all, to a young journalist, Piya Chowdhury takes Sumaya out on a guided tour of her life. A life she has put out in her new novel. The cities she lived in and left. The men she loved and lost. The dreams she chased and the realities that shattered them. A father she barely remembers, but whose absence haunted her throughout her girlhood days and adult life. The scar of an abusive relationship when love should have been about holding hands and stealing kisses. And the burden of expectations from being the bright girl who would go places.

Piya’s adult life, thus, remains trapped in the prison of her past. Will she be able to break free ever? Will the men in her life – Karimbhai, taxi driver, philosopher, father figure, who makes Mumbai liveable for Piya; the rakishly handsome, incorrigible flirt Tarun Sinha whom Piya detests at first and strikes a lifelong friendship with later; the suave Abir Sen, the editor who takes her heart away at the very first meeting but breaks it when she needs him most; artiste, mystic, observer of life, David Cicconi, who opens up a whole new world for Piya – fill the void she carries within? Faraway Music
is about all that and more.

The book is special to me for many reasons. Among others, Sreemoyee brought Mumbai back to me. A city which meant both sin and salvation at some point.

‘In a strange way madam, this city, is like Salma. At once consort, at once concubine – promising so much, luring eternally, but never being one man’s possession alone. Mumbai is everyone’s Salma – but no one can ever own her. To feel her one must taste the rain, soak in it, only then can you find Salma – even if it is for just one night,’ Karimbhai says.

And also be amused by Tarun Sinha who Sreemoyee insists is partly modelled on me and who at the end goes on to become CEO of a bigshit media house. Read and reflect.
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