08 May, 2021

Lessons Of Amorous Sentiment

Amid a young Indian’s notches on his American bedposts and flashes of life back in Bihar, Amitava Kumar floods his novel with studious ephemera

Lessons Of Amorous Sentiment

It was the 1970s; a friend of mine had recently had his room redecorated, his first mark of adult independence, and invited me to drop in. The moment I was inside and sitting on the bed, he locked the door. “I’m going to do this every time a friend visits,” he explained as I stared. “My parents will stop wondering why the door is locked”. It was about sex, of course—he wanted to stash his girlfriends away without awkward questions being asked. And that is where Amitava Kumar’s Lovers starts—with sex. The young Indian male in the 1960s and ’70s was cabined, cribbed and confined and gen­erally short of sexual expression. America was the only escape for those who hoped to get laid without getting married—white women, after all, were easy.

Typically, the student protagonist Kailash ends up in bed with the pretty librarian with a nervous breakdown in her past. Equally typically, he fumbles through the affair with reserve and emb­arrassment until it ends in an ovulatory miscalculation on...

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