“ You know, life is always a dangle ! Between now or never; between this and that ; between being and not being ; life is how you see it, do it, take it”.
Welcome to DANGLE by Sutapa Basu, a splendidly crafted psychological fiction, which will grab you by fist and make you sit through till the very end. An alluring blue COVER, title tilted upside down and ace author Amish Tripathi penning few words of praise, will seduced you to open and start reading it without wasting a single moment. This debut novel of Sutapa Basu has every ingredient to be a pot boiler, but how much it eventually succeeds, let’s find out.
Synopsis: Dangle is essentially a psychological fiction cum travelogue that spins around Ipshita Sen, a travel chat show host based in Delhi. The life of a vivacious globetrotter Ipshita is in lure. She is dangling between her past and present, in between good and bad and most importantly rage and peace in her life. Her haunting past (a tormenting physical abuse) breeds a psychotic turmoil in her mind. She hates men and marriage, yet finds herself sexually vulnerable when encountered with desirable men at different junctures. Eventually, Ipshita’s life comes to an irreversible brink, when she comes face to face with some astounding revelations about her own psychological affairs and hallucinations. Whether Ipshita will ever be able to elucidate this mess or will live with it all her life, is what Dangle is all about. Well supported by a host of other characters, this novel takes us through the various layers of human mind tangled with emotions, sometimes difficult to assimilate and understand. The storyline in display is delightfully intriguing with generous dollops of travel escapades sprinkled all over. Dangle does make you think more about life and its banalities in a larger prospective with the turn of every single page.
Characters: Sutapa Basu makes no mistake in sketching relatable characters. A Bengali household and its idiosyncrasies are a jolly good read. The demeanor of Brigadier Sen and his loving wife Siuli was unmistakably adorable. Ipshita is painted with complexities and vulnerabilities stuffed under a svelte soul. Adi, the quintessential lover boy with whom you can’t help but fall in love. And straight out of the horror story, the impious Col Vikram Chowdhury, who is nothing but a loath. Even finer detailing of minor characters like Amar Seth, Capt. Imran and Akash are vivid enough to carve a perfect niche in your mind. Each person has his/her space and well sculpted bearings in the plot.
However, I do find Brigadier Sen and Mallika’s standing in the story slightly arguable. I am yet to fathom a reason why they both needed to reconcile with Vikram Chowdhury, after his horrendous unpardonable deed. Not to forget Vikram almost killed Mallika and nearly raped Ipshita. I believe with the kind of upstate backdrop on display, the reactions should have been against the tide and not with the basic norms of the society. I wish Brigadier Sen had stood up for his daughters with unflinching determination to seek justice. Little disappointing stand from the author here.
Narration: Dangle takes off with a jerk. The first two chapters wobble precariously. But onto the third, and the narrative warms up to you. And, slowly and steadily it cruises never to slid again. The author is on top of it, with total control of the narrative. It is vivid, animated and convincing, which will hold your attention tight till the very end. With every incident, you come a notch closer to the characters. You smile at Siuli’s motherly charm, cringe every time Ipshita laments helplessly, feel raged at Col. Vikram for his barbarism, feel spooky with Amar Seth’s text messages and feel loved with Adi around. Sutapa Basu weaves her narration with such finesse, that you just not read, but start living their lives inadvertently with every shade of emotions touching you intensely. Turning pages was never so easy before! Along with this what works best in the narrative is the ending that Ms. Basu chose in each chapter. She writes-
“She stood motionless. Minutes she had looked around. Nobody had been there….the mud banks of the lake were flat, unbroken. Anyone would be visible for yards.
‘Can I come along with you?’
Ipshita turned around slowly…. Very very slowly.
Ms. Basu ends most her chapters on a note where it is nearly impossible to pick the bookmark and stop reading. The haunting and compelling last bit will cajole you to turn the page, reach the next chapter as fast as possible and read at least few lines to successfully quench your frazzled curiosity (What happens next/Who is standing behind her). I would like to believe that this was a deliberate move and possibly the hook by which the author wanted to lure her readers. And, for that, Ms. Basu – Take a bow !
Language: Dangle is no literary extravaganza. But in terms of language, it is almost perfect. The diction and subtle use of metaphorical language amalgamates beautifully with the texture of the story. It is effortless, smooth, sublime, yet enormously effective. The author plates her craft with such ease and dexterity that it makes the the whole story come alive. It is anything but contrived, and I would say that language is the biggest hallmark of Dangle.
Cannot move ahead without a mention of Ms. Basu’s travel escapades. Her junkets give Dangle a new dimension. Commendable research and amazing detailing makes it an engaging read. I do feel that many of it drops from her personal voyages. However, her Indian sojourns are more exciting, illustrated and alive than the overseas ones. I would not be surprised to see Ms. Basu toying with a full fledged travel story in days to come.
Having said this, there is an area that could have been a shade better. Let’s talk about the editing. Overall, the editing is crisp and fine, baring few places which has left a dent in the narrative. The change of scene and space in quite a few places is abrupt and sudden. For example, just when Ipshita is talking to Adi about something, the very next paragraph she takes a flight to a far away land. I would have preferred a little spacing in between the change of scenes, which would have made the narrative rather lucid and superfluous with the subsequent change in place, people and mood, panning out much more discretly.
Like they say, no art work is perfect. Dangle too is not a perfect or a flawless piece of literature. But its charm lies in this imperfection in many ways. The very fact that it deals with a tale of a psychotic mind, makes the story captivating and intriguing, coupled with Ms. Basu’s linguistic dexterity. If you are looking for a light hearted, yet ‘edge of the seat’ story, chose Dangle. You are most likely to skip a beat, bite your nails, smile, blush and sob…all at the same time.
And, before I finally conclude may I ask one question to Ms. Basu- “Did Major Giri come back”? I was stuck there with a broken heart and welled eyes !