22 October, 2020

Down The Hill

At one level Roy's prose is a dirge for the Kumaon hills. At another, a Pickwickian humour infuses it with robust charm.

Down The Hill

Set in Ranikhet, a few miles from the Kumaon I intimately know, I read The Folded Earth with curiosity. Pages turned, it’s the novel’s quieter moments that tell the chill tale of north India’s decaying hill stations that resonate, not the story of the grieving widow, Maya, nor that of her attraction for Diwan sahib’s nephew, Veer. Roy joins Allan Sealy, whose elegiac The Everest Hotel also asks: is the way of life in colonial hill stations falling apart as they grapple with inept modernity?

The arc of the novel’s trajectory lies in Maya’s neighbour Ama’s household. Both live on the periphery of the erstwhile diwan of Surajgarh’s crumbling estate, The Lighthouse. Roy’s nuanced portraits of Ama’s challenged son Sanki Puran and granddaughter Charu provide the central motif. To read cook Kundan Singh’s love-letters, Charu learns to read with Maya’s help, thus escaping a typical pahari girl’s future. Kundan’s epistles echo love-notes of Nehru...



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