Basudeb profiles Neelam Saxena Chandra, an emerging important woman novelist of India, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Neelam Saxena Chandra is a versatile and prolific writer. She is a bilingual poet, and an Indian woman novelist in English, short story writer both in Hindi and English and a lyricist. She is a winner of several awards like Rabindranath Tagore International Poetry Award and many others. She was born at Nagpur on 27th June 1969, alumni of Hislop College. She graduated from VNIT as an engineer and did the diploma course in IM & HRD and also in Finance. Now, she works for the UPSC as a Joint Secretary.
Later on, she went to London and completed a course in finance from the London School of Economics. An author of three novels, one novelette and five short story collections she earns appreciations from different academic and cultural organizations. She was invited by premier institutes such as SAARC Literary Fest and Sahitya Akademy, etc. for book/poetry reading.
Out of her three novels, In the Flickering of an Eye, is renowned and this novel has been acclaimed by the national and international academia.
Neelam is a Modernist novelist and the narrative technique of her novel is naturalistic like Emile Zola of France and Premchand of our country. Seemingly Premchand tries to be neutral in his delineation. But the water tight compartment between the subjectivity and the objectivity is hardly possible. The novelist subtly leads readers to grow a sense of sympathy towards the sufferers and victims. Emile Zola’sNana is also a case in point in this regard. Neelam’s novel is not a departure from this naturalistic technique. A lot of diverging trends of the twentieth century is found in her In the Flickering of an Eye.
Her novel has the beginning, the middle and the end. It begins with the protagonist standing near the car for his destination. A boy is found near the car. He comes forward and gives a manuscript of his novel to Vinay. He has written a novel on the love story of a promising young boy and a girl. After a brief discussion, Vinay agrees to take and read the manuscript because the love between the two is likely to meet the ‘honour killing’. Both the boy and the girl belong to the same Gotra and their families do not approve of this marriage and in the name of honour, members of both the families would kill them. Vinay then reaches the railway station, boards the train. Here the beginning ends. Then Vinay reaches NJP station and with one of his hilly friends Sanjay Daju he leaves for Kalimpong, a tiny hilly town near Sikkim. Vinay checks in a hotel where he meets the proprietor of the hotel, Rohini. Vinay is very much confused after seeing certain physical similarities between his girlfriend with whom he is desperately mad to marry but both Vinay and Manju belong to the same Gotra and the society to which belong will not approve of their marriage. And the Gram Panchayat would issue a Fatwa to kill both them if they do not separate themselves from each other. In the middle of the novel what readers see is that Vinay narrates the love story of his tragic life to Sanjay Daju. In escaping the wrath of their family members, they flee from their village and decide to go to Delhi. But, the fate of the social prejudice, whatever it is, compels them to be separated from each other. And Vinay after reaching Delhi searches his Manju but finds her nowhere. With the help of two benign gentlemen, Vinay admits himself to a college and finally obtains a Ph.D. degree. Vinay is then a faculty of Delhi University and a novelist of celebrity. Readers come to know all about Vinay from his narration of his life to Sanjay Daju. At the end of the novel, Vinay discovers Rohini is his Manju.
Rohini is a widow. A Nepali gentleman helps her and they enter into wedlock. The man has hotel business and has a huge property. Rohini is reluctant to remarry Vinay at that stage of her life but marathon arguments with Vinay in favour of their marriage and finally he wins over Manju. They go back to Delhi to marry each other there. They reach first Jagadri station and find Anju is at the station to receive them. Anju comes to know that Manu and Vinu are the protagonists of his novel. He also comes to know that they are now married. It is discovered then Vinay and Manju are his bua and fufaji. Anju’s old father is then totally changed and he accepts them heartily. The tragic event that takes place in Vinay and Manju’s life happens precisely to a young boy and a girl belonging to their next generation. Vinay promises to get them married.
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Basudeb Chakraborti is a retired professor of English and Faculty Dean, University of Kalyani. He founded the Department of English in Sikkim Central University (2013). He taught in the USA and India. He wrote more than 100 articles in different literary journals in India and abroad. Among his books, Thomas Hardy’s View of Happiness, Some Problems of Translation: A Study of Tagore’s Red Oleanders, Indian Partition Fiction in English and in English Translation, etc.