Sunday, June 26, 2011

Novelist Amitav Ghosh meets an old friend

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photo: Amitav Ghosh (left) conversing with Cherian J. Punnathara
Credit: Manu R. Mavelil

When Cherian. J. Punnathara, a Kochi-based senior journalist hears that Amitav Ghosh is coming to Kochi, he feels that it is time to meet the famous author. At the Vivanta By Taj, he accosts Amitav and says, “I am Cherian.” Amitav immediately replies, “From the CDS (Centre for Development Studies).”

Cherian nods and the two shake hands. They are meeting after 28 years. In 1983, Amitav, a research scholar from Delhi University, had come to use the library facilities at the CDS in Thiruvananthapuram. There, he befriended Cherian, an M. Phil student, and Tirthankar Roy, who is now a professor at the London School of Economics.

And it was in Cherian’s room that Amitav used his friend’s Olivetti portable typewriter to type out the first draft of his critically-acclaimed novel, ‘The Circle of Reason’. Asked how his friend is, Cherian says, “Amitav is the same bubbly and chirpy person I knew so many years ago. The only change is that his hair is completely white.”

Cherian, of course, is an admirer of Amitav’s writing. “He has a wonderful narrative style, and there are so many plots and sub-plots in his novels,” he says. “Amitav captures the social milieu so well, and his focus on detail is admirable.”

As the friends begin chatting, Amitav says, “One of the most memorable experiences during my stay in Kerala was our trip to the waterfall in the Bonarccad forest, near Thiruvananthapuram.” Cherian, Tirthankar and Amitav had spent the night out in the open besides the waterfall.

“Those were good times,” says Cherian. “It was nice to meet Amitav after such a long time.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)