Writing in images

Writing in images

The novel opens with Chakraborti’s protagonist leaving for Munich on getting to know of his “girlfriend’s missed period and the subsequent result of a home-pregnancy test”.

He goes off leaving a note for Jo that he needs to recover a couple of discarded manuscripts from Heidi, his ex-girlfriend (and also his ex-live-in partner). The story turns mysterious with Heidi’s sudden disappearance after her meeting with Dev and Heidi’s enraged mother putting the entire blame on Dev whom she had never liked. Dev now leaves home and Jo for the second time (again sans information) and embarks upon a journey to India with the infuriating Rodrigo (the very man Heidi had ditched him for) to find Heidi. Unfortunately for Dev, Rodrigo is the only person who can help him in his mission. As Heidi’s two ex-boyfriends set off on their journey, it becomes crystal clear that both had never stopped hoping for a second chance with her. Their adventurous journey to the North-Eastern part of India filled with disasters lead them farther and farther away from their goal and ultimately Dev returns back home without even meeting his ex-flame.

Now, comes pay-back time — payments for the frivolity and irresponsibility he has shown! A changed Dev, who by now has seen much of the world, wants to amend matters with Jo, is ready for commitment and fatherhood and feels that “perhaps this baby is exactly what I need”. But there is no more chance for him and Jo flies off to LA without any word on her future plans.

Chakraborti’s novel is an intensely funny one, but more importantly, a delight for the serious reader as it leaves a deep impact on the mind. In Balloonists, the author sticks to his love of “writing in images” and thus leaves much to the readers’ interpretation. The title of the book itself is entirely metaphorical and the readers’ understanding of the image created of people (mainly Chakraborti’s hero, Dev) floating farther and farther away from commitments and responsibilities is crucial to a proper appreciation of the novel. Dev brings back memories of Niladri Dasgupta, the protagonist of Chakraborti’s first novel, Or The Day Seizes You, who at all junctures opts out of every responsibility — as father, son, a fellow human being and even as a citizen. As in Niladri’s story, the constant running away from responsibilities — not seeming to belong anywhere, features in Dev’s life too. This sense of dislocation, a common theme in the works of many non-residential Indians, is dealt by Chakraborti, who himself has been away from his native land a long time, in a significantly different way.

Dev is not the typical NRI who possesses lofty ideas regarding his native land and is sentimental about anything Indian in essence. Chakraborti’s intention is clearly not to dwell on themes of cultural displacements or the immigrant’s dilemma between individuality and community, tradition and self-desire. Rather, Balloonists focuses on Chakraborti’s oft-trodden zone of the modern man’s dilemma amidst life’s complexities and hence, the tendency to escape and rely on the crutches of lies and deceptions arise prominently all throughout the novel. In fine, Balloonists gets a thumbs-up recommendation for voracious readers ready to embark on another thought-provoking

Rajorshi Chakraborti
Penguin, 2010,
pp 212, Rs 200

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