The reading experience of Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020, Sabarna Roy’s sixth critically acclaimed bestseller, is unique and haunting. Three things are defining about this book: It is a fast-read book that can be completed within two and half hours; is a cocktail of a novella where differing ideas play around the subject of dualism of life and a poem cycle of 20 poems replete with breathtaking imagery, and the lingering and profound impact the book has on you.
Let us read some of the excerpts from the novella:
“[Babazula made the opening remarks about Love]
In spite of mammoth inventions, and discoveries of mankind, we have not been able to fully grasp the duality of love, and lust in human relationships. In the Museum of Innocence, Pamuk establishes a tale of pure love between Kemal Bey and Fuzun [his cousin]. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera establishes a lustful yarn between Tomas and Sabina. All of us are swinging between the extremes of this pendulum. Where and how we exist at any given point in time is very complex to figure out.”
“[Babazula gives a few examples on Dualities]
Another duality is the transition of a tyrant to a benevolent, or a benevolent to a tyrant. Such revolutionary transitions happen because of traumatic circumstances. Real life stands testimony to this phenomenon.
Another duality is peace of solitude and craving for an audience.
The other two often faced dualities are:
1. How will we achieve true empathy? By intellectual understanding and realization or practice. It can be argued that it is a fine balance of both.
2. In making an invention how much of it is an intricate combination of imagination and intuition, or rigorous experimentation, collection and interpretation of results. Similarly, here it can be argued that it is a fine balance of both.”
The novella ends as follows:
“[Babazula and Tulip agree to conclude]
Can we conclude that: Everything is in a state of constant transition and it is change which is constant?
In an era of uncontrolled greed and hunger for power, how will mankind realise its infinitesimally small place in the universe? In this river of life, how will mankind achieve transitional duality and not constancy?”
Sabarna Roy has never hidden the influence of Albert Camus on his works. To bring forth this point, a poem from the poem cycle is being excerpted below for the readers to understand the deep impact Albert Camus has on Sabarna:
“Crows, mynas, sparrows and pigeons
Gather in my garden Short cut grasses, hibiscus, clivia, orchids and jasmine Colours and fragrance lingering in the air
The birds play around and look for their food within the grass mat Butterflies atrophaneura semperi – fly from flower
I sit in my armchair with a vintage copy of The Plague
This book and its accompanying literature I have read and reread many, many times over
For I have to teach my students at the University and earn my daily living
After all these years I am still awestruck by this book
Some of the underlined passages I reread to the birds, butterflies, grass mat and flowers in my garden:
Tarrou nodded. ‘Yes. But your victories will never be lasting; that’s all.’ Rieux’s face darkened. ‘Yes, I know that. But it’s no reason for giving up the struggle.’
No, Father. I’ve a very different idea of love. And until my dying day, I shall refuse to love a scheme of things in which children are put to torture.
What’s natural is the microbe. All the rest — health, integrity, purity (if you like) — is a product of the human will, of a vigilance that must never falter. The good man, the man who infects hardly anyone, is the
man who has the fewest lapses of attention.
I have been fascinated by the character of Dr Rieux, who to my mind is the idealised Rebel
About his love Camus writes, during Rieux’s struggle inside the city afflicted with the epidemic:
All this time he’d practically forgotten the woman he loved, so absorbed had he been in trying to find a rift in the walls that cut him off from her. But at this same moment, now that once more all ways of escape were sealed against him, he felt his longing for her blaze up again.
A sparrow and a butterfly sit on my copy of The Plague and they do not allow me to read anymore Two mynas sit on each shoulder
I look up at the sky; the blue melts from it like molten metal
I can feel the time has come to leave my home and run into the jungles where a drama is being played out in the amphitheater of the life of our nation”
Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020 is a must read also because of the deep existential philosophies that evolve from the book so organically.
Sabarna Roy is a much decorated author; has been awarded the Literoma Laureate Award in 2019, Literoma Star Achiever Award 2020, Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012 – 2018 won the best book of the year 2019, the A List Award for excellence in fiction by the NewsX Media House and Certificate for The Real Super Heroes for spreading a spirit of positivity and hope during the COVID-19 Pandemic from Forever Star India Award 2020.