Monday, August 18, 2014

Review- Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar

Goodreads Summary:

Sachin Kundalkar started on his first novel at 20 and finished it when he was 22. The novel was Cobalt Blue, the story of a brother and sister who fall in love with the same man, and how a traditional Marathi family is shattered by the ensuing events – a work that both shocked and spoke to Marathi readers. 

“Thankfully, no one calls it a gay novel anymore. That term is so passé. Now about 12 years later, I feel the brother and the sister are not two people but masculine and feminine sides of the same person. And the book is thus, in turns, a feminine and a masculine monologue,” says the author.


I came across this review of author Sachin Kundalkar's Cobalt Blue when I was searching for some absurdity-themed Marathi novels, and I was completely intrigued by the sound of it. Cobalt Blue may not have anything to do with absurdity, but it sounded so good to me. For quite some time now, I had my eye on the book, and I was excited to pick up and read the English edition of the Marathi novel translated by Jerry Pinto. Even though it's my mother-tongue, I am not the most comfortable reading in Marathi, and this book has really made me want to step out of my langue comfort zone and read the original. Somewhere, when I came across Cobalt Blue, I knew that the book would be amazing, and I can proudly say that it was just that- simply and purely amazing. There are many aspects of this book that can be contemplated over deeply and discussed thoroughly, but that would be lengthy and time consuming, so I will just write about its amazingness, taking into consideration the points I feel are the most important. 

What I loved the most about Cobalt Blue- and I'm being biased here- is that it's set in my very own, lovely and incredible city of Pune where there is a peaceful and easy coexistence of tradition and modernity. I loved exploring my own city through the book, and was astounded when a shop that belongs to a family friend was mentioned. The story takes place in a simple Maharashtrian family of two brothers Aseem and Tanay, a sister Anuja and their parents. Whilst here, I would like to stress on Jerry Pinto's retention (of which he speaks in the Translator's Note) of some Marathi terms that can be translated, but sound more authentic and convincing when used the way they are. I, for one, found it very normal and nice. The Joshi family open up a room in their house for a paying guest. That's when the person whose name we do not get to know until the very end (what admiration I have for Mr. Kuldarkar), but who plays the most significant role in the story, comes into the lives of Tanay and Anuja, who are fascinated by the carefree, dashing, independent and quirky personality of their paying guest. 

The first half of Cobalt Blue is a second person naration where Tanay directly addresses the paying guest, while the second half of the book is from Anuja's point of view where she narrates her journey with the paying guest. That brings me to another thing that I loved about the book, and that is the simultaneity of a heterosexual and a homosexual relationship. Although the two relationships are the focus of the book, sometimes, it seemed to me like the story was more about the Joshi family, wherein everyone knows one another, but no one really understands each other. It's so good that I can't even describe how well everything is done. That aside though, Cobalt Blue is not about discovering, accepting or exploring sexuality, it's about embracing it. In a very conscious and subtle way, the author keeps the family on one side entirely and the two love struck siblings on another side. The consequences of both the relationships are devastating and let me get one thing straight- I had been waiting to read a book like this for so long. A book where things left unsaid, remain unsaid. A book where things left undone, remain undone. It was astounding and so very amazing. 

There is something so intriguing and mysterious about Cobalt Blue that I wanted to read it so bad and once I began reading it, I didn't want it to end. But honestly, like I said before, I was waiting for a book like this and I'm more than glad I finally stumbled upon it. Seriously, Cobalt Blue has proved to me that Marathi literature is so precious and there are so many gems to be discovered. On a purely personal level, I don't like to shout out about the books that I loved and find special. But something about Cobalt Blue makes me want to take up the job of letting people know about its beauty and just thrusting the book (even if it's my very own and henceforth treasured copy) in their hands just so they know how beautiful it is. The story is amazing. The writing is amazing. The translation is amazing. The book is simply amazing. 



  1. Intriguing review. Sounds like a superb read

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