Manu Prasad's Reviews > Once Upon A Time In Aparanta

Once Upon A Time In Aparanta by Sudeep Chakravarti
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Oct 04, 11

bookshelves: review
Read from September 25 to October 04, 2011

I picked up this book because I liked Sudeep Chakravarti's earlier work - Tin Fish. In both cases, the author sets up the story in very familiar and much 'abused' settings, but manages to give it a completely different and memorable treatment using his unique characters and narrative.
In this case it is Goa - Aparanta - the Land at the Horizon. The characters are well defined and to some extent even familiar - Winston Almeida the power hungry thug and landgrabber, Fernandes the corrupt cop, Sergei the Russian drug lord, the politicians who abet them so long as they get their stake, Antonio the innkeeper who is concerned more about his marriage and is content to sit on the sidelines as the thug-politician-drug lord nexus pillages Goa, Dino Dantas the crusader who refuses to give up, and so on. Even Princess, a Brazilian transsexual who lends the eccentric touch to the mix, is made to blend in naturally. Small detours in the narrative provide context and colour to the secondary characters - Ida, Anastasia, the Professor etc.
The reason it works is because like many good books, it adds the place as a character. Goa spills out of the pages - colorful people, unparalleled natural beauty, language which oozes flavours, the colonial hangover, the regular tourists who consider themselves locals, and their temporary versions who consider Goa's pleasures a temporary answer to all their woes. The other reason is the prose - flexible enough to accommodate descriptions of Goa's bountiful beauty as well as the satire that makes the brutality bearable.
I was a bit disappointed with the ending, especially considering the chapters that preceded it. It felt like a compromise, very accommodating, and in stark contrast to the rest of the book which pulled no punches. However, it still remains a must read for anyone who loves Goa and has seen it change over the years. For others, it could be the story of a land and its citizens, the choices they make and the price they pay for 'development'.
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