Book – Don’t Let Him Know
Author – Sandip Roy
Publication – Bloomsbury India
Pages – 246
Price – Rs. 499
Genre – Fiction
” For a moment that anger rose again, inky dark, from the pit of her stomach , dredging up bits and pieces of the past,like unabsorbed pills,their cheery candy-colored coating long gone, just the bitterness now, still there after all these years,little pills of bitterness.”
In the University Town of Carbondale in Illinois, Romola Mitra, newly married to a Ph.D scholar Avinash had only started getting adjusted to her new life when she receives a letter from India. Assuming it is from her family back in Calcutta, she tears it open and is thus exposed to a secret involving her husband. She chooses to stick to the most practical option in dealing with unpleasant surprise – bury it deep within her heart. Soon after, her constant insistence to move back to Calcutta to be close to the family lands them back in the city of joy. After their son Amit is born, he grows up amidst the love and affection of his parents, grandmother and his great-grandmother. Avinash diligently plays the role of a good son, dutiful husband and doting father even though he has a good deal of undisclosed encounters to be safeguarded. He is often seen lurking in gay chat rooms having an unrevealed identity. There are relatives whose presence creates more drama and tension in the house. Amit shifts to San Francisco eventually after becoming a software engineer, gets married to his American live-in girlfriend June and the couple have a son together – Neel. Years later, he finds himself torn between his passion and profession. His father’s sudden demise brings him back to his city where he comes face to a face with a long guarded secret. Whether Romola discloses the actual truth to Amit the truth or let it stay with her forever is unraveled by the climax of the story.
This book is about unfolding of relationships. As the plot thickens, the layers are peeled off exposing the skeleton of the thought process. At the center of the story is the main protagonist Romola. Every situation weaves around her. All the characters, despite having a story of their own, are connected to her in some or the other way. It is her choice of sustaining the marriage that lays the path for the future events. Amit’s relationship with her great-grandmother is one of the most delicate thread of the story. In an age where nuclear family seems to be the norm, it brings back memories of a cherished past. Quite a few other aspects are touched upon in a very matured and sensible way. There’s a same-sex angle that really touches the chord. The unwilling acceptance to succumb to the societal pressure against the choice of a happily ever after life with a chosen partner is well depicted. There is also a track about the lower strata of the society through the house-help Mangala and her grand-daughter Durga. Despite years of unwavering loyalty towards the family, a small incident is enough for the Mitra family to start doubting Mangala’s intentions and morality. What makes the story even more attractive is the premises in which it is set – in an era when the city was Calcutta, not Kolkata.
I first read this book in the beginning of 2017. The story gets the reader so invested in the lives of the characters that I couldn’t let go of the book till I finished those two hundred and forty-six pages overnight. There is an inherent mystery element about the title and the cover. The story takes us through the predictable behavior of the society through the apathy of Romola’s parents related to their daughter dating a movie star, concept of arranged marriages where the grooms qualification but the girl’s beauty is what work as the deciding factors, hushed preferences that are soon shushed and age-old exploitation of the low-income groups. What is really appreciable is the way the author has chosen to describe the instances as a mere matter of fact without voicing an opinion or getting judgmental about it. Ultimately it is left to the reader to decide who they want to empathize with.
Overall, Don’t Let Him Know is one of the finest books written on the story of human relationships.
My rating would be
4 of 5
About the author –
Sandip Roy is an Indian journalist based in Kolkata after living in the USA for two decades. Roy is the author of the novel Don’t Let Him Know. The story of secrets within two generations of an Indian family transplanted to the USA, the action takes place between Kolkata, an American college town, and California. The book was a 2016 longlist nominee for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature published in English. Roy has contributed stories to various anthologies including Storywallah!, Contours of the Heart, Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India, Out! Stories from the New Queer India, New California Writing 2011 and The Phobic and the Erotic: The Politics of Sexualities in Contemporary India.
Source – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandip_Roy_(author)