Sumana Roy Explores A Piece of Ramayana in Her Debut Novel Missing

They say you  never truly know the value of what you have, until you’ve lost it, this I believe acutely envelopes, what the novel Missing, is all about.

Set in the backdrop of a region in turmoil, the demand for a separate Bodoland, violence against women and the growing discontent with the influx of migrants, in the luscious and verdant Siliguri, Missing, weaves an intriguing tale.

A blind Bengali poet awaits his wife’s return, who in turn has gone to find out the whereabouts, of a girl who was molested in Guwahati. All she leaves behind are instructions for a new bed and the carpenter Bimal-da for company. Their son Kabir, a doctoral student is immersed in his research, on a highway that connects Siliguri to other cities.

The novel, spans a week in their lives, from dawn to dusk, recounting the effect that one person’s absence has on the entire household. The age old question, dating right back to the Ramayana, “ What happens when a wife goes missing?” is explored intricately by Sumana Roy.  

By incorporating, (fictional) news reports, the author lends credibility and a certain authenticity to the narrative. Her description of a research scholar’s life and frustrations will strike a chord with every academician. At the same time, she doesn’t shy away from calling out the racism and elitism that is prevalent in the society. It is reflected in the way Bimal-Da treats Ahmed, his aide to every Nepali he comes across and Nayan’s guarded interchange with the other characters in the novel.

The novel is by no means a slow read, given that it centers around seven days in the lives, of the above mentioned characters, however what propels the reader to read it slowly, is the layers of meaning, that the author has attached to the narrative. The fictional tale resonates with the reader.

The writing employs the senses and this makes the book all the more appealing. Missing is a poignant tale, that demands to be read. Sumana Roy has captured the last remnants of a world, that is slowly coming to terms with the rapid developments in and around it. All in all, a wonderful novel.

Reviewed by : Anusha DSouza

About the author:

Sumana Roy’s first book, How I Became a Tree, a work of non-fiction, was published in 2017. It was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize (Non-fiction) 2017 and the Tata Literature Live! First Book Award (Non-fiction) 2017. Missing is her first novel. She lives in Siliguri.

Author(s): Sumana Roy
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Release: April 2018
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary
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