Book Review: The Wrong Turn by Sanjay Chopra and Namita Roy Ghose

Book: The Wrong Turn

Author: Sanjay Chopra and Namita Roy Ghose

Publisher: Om Books International

Genre:  Fictional Romance amidst Non-fictional history

In One Line:  When love for the human overrides love for the nation

Characterisation: The three protagonists – Nishonko, Debraj, and Aditi have been penned down in depth. Thankfully most of their personality has come through dialogues and acts rather than the author directly telling us so. What, I found lacking, however was the chemistry between Debraj and Aditi. Yes, the love-making scenes are there, but they do not give rise to any emotions. Despite it all, they seemed like two different souls. Those who have experienced love will know what I mean when I say this.

Of the side characters, I liked Pandey ji and his ‘ways’ to get Debraj ‘on track’. Despite his tough outside, he seemed to emanate a softness that was quite likeable. The second likeable character was Kabootar. If I can say so, he was a sweetheart – a gentleman and a complete man (read the book to know why I use these two words separately)!

The negative role essayed by Goopta and Gaffar have been well chalked out by the writers. They are indeed quite easy to hate.

Language: I loved the smoothness of the language. Here’s why it gets additional brownie points from me:

  • I love it when a book manages to get me up from my seat and to get me to fetch the dictionary. I did it for this book. Here are some examples: Doric columns, jingoistic, hoores of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Theda Bara
  • This is a historical romance. Adding humour to it is not easy. But it did give rise to smiles. Here’s one such example: “I think I may have saved Benny from a dreaded disease…nincompoopitis!”
  • Some of the descriptions, even if only single line long, were worth a second read. I found one right in the prologue: “ …like a veil hiding the ugliness of death”. Here are some more:
    • “Every moment you stand at a cross road. You make a choice. You take the right o the left…and the path is created. the destiny is made”
    • “Maybe thats the point. That you have to lose everything to find out who you really are”
    • “He realised why people cried at funerals. They were reminded of their own loss, their own regrets of unfinished business”.

There are, however, some facts which bothered me a bit.

  • Being a Bengali, I understood the Bengali words that have been used. However, for the benefit of other readers, somewhere they should have all been explained. If not within the dialogue itself, then maybe as a footnote? Example: “Gola-kata price of veggies…”, “…bileth-pheroth barrister”
  • The story moves back and forth between the present and the past tense. All, however, have been written in the same font. Initially, the reader, does tend to get a little confused.
  • Some words, catch the eye. So, when they are repeated, it seems very repetitive. I found the repetition of the word “aagdoom-baagdoom” by all three – Aditi, Debraj, and Nishonko, a tad too much!

All said, this, for obvious reasons, remains my favourite lines from the book 🙂 :

“Do you know what ‘Aditi’ means in Sanskrit?

He doesn’t wait for a reply.

It means freedom, limitless, boundless. Unbroken. She is the goddess of the sky, the mother of the sun, she is both the past and the future.”

Plot Setting: It has all happened in history. We all know that the story is set primarily in Kohima. However, that is not how writers should think. I’m glad this author duo did not. They have amply described the locales, thus making it adequate enough to visualise. Here’s one that describes North Kolkata: “…the narrow, winding gully, crowded by ramshackle houses on either side…”.

PS: All those well versed with Kolkata, will someone please tell me what are sumboosucks that Nahoum’s apparently makes/made?

Book Cover Art: I understand the authors’ euphoria in the book being turned into a motion picture ‘soon’. However, the film-like cover did not appeal to me. It seemed like a shot from a Bollywood movie and less like ‘love during Netaji’s time’. A cover art that showed, say, a worn out photograph of the ‘love birds’ would have definitely been more appropriate. Yes, I do judge a book by its cover. So, no points for the book under this head.

How’s the Title: I am still hmming about the word ‘turn’. Why the word ‘turn’? There was no ’turning’ back either for Netaji, the army, the love birds, or the betrayer!

Is The Blurb Catchy: The blurb is detailed but a little long. When choosing a book by the blurb, the potential reader usually reads only the first paragraph. Given this, one would pick this book up only if he was a Netaji fan. Of course, marketing has been done well by adding Jug Suraiya’s quote towards the end. The eye does catch onto that. If star credibility prompts buying, this book would go off the shelf easily.

Learning From The Story: This has been my learning: According to the Hindu scriptures there is a difference between vadh and hatya – slaying and murder. Goddess Durga slay Mahishashura because he was evil. So, that was permissible. Our freedom fighters fought with the same thought in mind. They were slaying evil in order to create good. But Debraj, one of the protagonists of the tale, has asked a pertinent question wherein he asks whether slaying the Brits was really slaying or not. After all they had families too. My thought too. Do the killings then become murder? Or does the patriotism shroud turn it into slaying? Somethings, I guess, are best left grey. Would like to know what other readers felt.

Areas Of Improvement: SPOILER ALERT: There is a quote just before the prologue that hints at the fact that this is fiction. However, there was a man by the name of Bhagat Ram Talwar, who history says, betrayed Netaji. Knowing this, it was a title difficult to digest this fiction which says that the battle of Kohima was lost because of betrayal on grounds of love.

What Is ‘Said By Not Saying’: If you love, then say it before you lose your turn. And if you can’t be man enough to, then at least be man enough to let go. If you can’t do this either, then you shall suffer for as long as you breathe. And it won’t be worth it.

My Reaction When I Finally Closed The Book: 

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