Around the world with sexy apparitions

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Sutapa

 

An extract from Dangle:

Adi and Ipshita kept crouching in the dust not daring to raise their heads. The seemingly trigger-happy shooters could be militants or the forces! The old man continued to wait for the fish to bite. After what seemed like a lifetime, Adi raised his head slowly. He expected his head to be blasted off any moment. His eyes gingerly cleared edge of the rock. Hesquinted into the ubiquitous underbrush where, just a whileago, he had caught light reflecting off a metal butt. Now he could only see leaves trembling in a gust of wind. He took his time to make are nobody was around. Only then did Adi pull Ipshita up. For some time they kneeled, the undergrowth poking painfully through their jeans, raking the surrounding trees and bushes; ready to drop at the slightest stir.
Everything was quiet. Crickets started a chorus and a bird called from a hidden perch. The couple climbed back on the rock but still scanned the calm surroundings suspiciously.
Serenity can be a treacherous dangle!

Finally their hearts stoped thudding. Just when they had relaxed, shots rang out again. but they were distant now. About to jump off the rock, Adi and Ipshita paused. Looking down, they tried to locate the guns in the trellis of vegetation. The fisherman looked up too, for a moment.

Has chick lit as a genre run its course? One asks because those witty chronicles of modern womanhood, often penned by first-time authors, are no longer the toast of town. There was a decade, roughly the noughties, when urban professionals struck a chord in the hearts of others like them by writing in a light-hearted tone about working girls in quest for self-realisation and soulmates. It was a sub-genre of romantic fiction that didn’t tax your brain or take up too much of your precious time but left a lasting imprint — and made you look at your own life with self-deprecating humour. Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary was the mother hen that gave birth to a hundred chicks.

Now women are doing themselves a favour by keeping the romance alive but getting more serious about raising graver issues. Dangle by Sutapa Basu, rises above chick lit in its ability to relentlessly probe people’s psyches and sexuality but also to describe how terrorism and militancy affect us even when they don’t kill our loved onees.

Basu presents piquant dilemmas through her protagonist Ipshita that make you squirm uncomfortably just when you’re settling into a cosy read. Should we be grateful to the armed protectors or their territories if they turn out to be wife-beaters? Should we keep our girls secure and closeted at the risk of letting their sexual repression distort their behaviour?

Women readers will give a resounding ‘No’ to such existential questions. Men might be outraged at this shaking of the foundations of patriarchy. They will cluck-cluck that such adventurous women as our pretty heroine will never find happiness. But both the male and female of the species will not be able to abandon this novel till they reach the end. The mystery does build up but it would perhaps not be advisable to read the book at one go. The narrative is set in three distinct locations across the world — Chicago, Imphal and Singapore — between which we must pause lest we get too travel-weary.