Author: Sumana Roy
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Missing is an account of 7 days in the life of a blind poet, named Nayan, while his wife goes missing. Set in Bengal, Missing is a study of the relationships and the society that is constituted of these relationships.
It is the summer of 2012. A young girl is molested in Guwahati in India’s Northeast, journalists take photographs and make videos of the incident, but no one tries to rescue her. The monsoons have arrived, and Assam is flooded, as it is every year.
In Siliguri, Kobita, a fifty four-year-old activist, married to Nayan, a blind poet, decides to travel to Guwahati to search for the molested girl who has gone missing. Before she takes off she leaves instructions to have a new bed made. Because of his disability, Nayan has no option but to depend on the carpenter and his family to trace his wife after her phone calls stop coming. There is a riot in lower Assam from where Kobita last called her husband.
While Nayan grows desperate for news about his missing wife, their son, Kabir, is in England, absorbed in his research about Hill Cart Road, the highway that connects Siliguri to Darjeeling and the eastern Himalayas.
Missing is about seven days in the lives of these people. It is a study of the modern marriage, played out against the awareness of the question that gave birth to the Indian subcontinent’s first epic, the Ramayana: What happens when a wife goes missing?
The premises of the novel is very interesting. It is quite enticing and one expects a very compelling and engrossing narrative. And so it is, at least till the mid of the novel. But after that point, one starts losing interest because nothing crucial happens- there is no news of Kobita. But somehow the reader is still eager to discover Kobita and Nayan’s fate and so one keeps on reading.
There’s very little that the story has to offer. But it is the commentary on the social and political system that the author makes in the process of telling this story that forms the core of this novel. She shows how newspapers have become so unreliable and a mere tool for propagating political agendas. By taking the readers into the house of a common man- a blind common man, she presents a perspective that is seldom found anywhere.
Besides the 3-4 characters mentioned in the blurb, there are some other important characters too. More than the characters, it is their words that are important- the words that establish them as a representative of some social group and thus provide a social critique of sorts. So if you expect this book to be just a story about a blind man whose wife goes missing, while his son is studying abroad, then you are mistaken. And so I was.
To be honest, I didn’t enjoy this book much. Because it turned out to be something different from what I expected it to be. The one thing that I really wanted to know more about is the research project of Kabir and the whole story associated with it. But it was abandoned just like our own projects are abandoned when something life altering happens.
Throughout the novel, there runs a parallel between Sita and Kobita. This whole thing makes us question our interprestaion of the Ramayana. What I liked the most about the book is the author’s writing style. I don’t think I have read something like this before. So I think one should go into this novel without paying much attention to the blurb.
Before ending this review, I would like to state one thing in my review and it is that I got a better understanding of the book after reading the author’s interview with Vivek Tejuja. I recommend you to all to read it, if you happen to read this book.
My Rating: ****(3.5/5)
What do you think about this book? Have you Sumana Roy’s first book? Do share your thoughts. Thanks.
*I was kindly sent a copy by the Publisher in exchange for a review. Views expressed are entirely personal & unbiased.*