The Winter Song by Saurav Dutt is a brilliant slow burn novel that seeks the fragility of human relationships after death of loved ones. The novel is part melancholic drama, part memoir, and of course spiritual journey of a man who sees his life wasted under the aegis of hollow ideologies. Unlike romance or contemporary novels, this one is way different in its pace and approach. It crawls at a slow speed and demands patience from the readers. Those who have read Mr. Dutt in ‘Dear Mr. Bachchan’ or ‘The Butterfly Room’ – will find this novel way offbeat than its usual charm.
The novel is mainly about family drama, value, allegiance, faith, love in marriage – but surprisingly the author did all with a fewer characters. The writing style is sober and subtle. Set in the Himalayan region of North India, the novel introduces us to John Perera – a man from different religion and culture – but settled in the snow and mist of Shimla with his love of life, his wife Asima.
Mostly emotionally draining and melancholic and at times brimming with sadness, the novel explores as what it is like to lose loved members of family. John is the central character in the novel. Once Asima (his wife) told him to do something great and big for her love, well, then he didn’t heed. Once she passes away, John feels the void of emptiness within him. He takes a vow to honour his wife by taking a long walk of around 90 miles from Shimla to the Spiti Valley where she first prayed for a wonderful husband.
Their love has been insipid and diffident and the couple was not on talking terms for long. To add the agony, their only son Jimmy died at the age of 32. He was not an ideal son to them. He wasted his life in drugs i.e. consuming and selling hashish. He died too young that too like a wretched dog. His death was a shattering point in their lives. The couple turned absolutely cold and their sub-audition grew cold and something good about them faded away eventually.
As John walks alone in the chilling cold of the Himalayan routes, his past never leaves him. Bittersweet memories and regrets and much more keep chasing him. Despite that seething and sinking feeling, he keeps moving to discover the faith that keeps love intact and midway he grew curious to know whether his son died of his own or some drug mafia or peddler killed him. On route, he stumbles upon some people, who in return, strengthen his motto of this journey. Tuffnel, Sita, and that old dying man – it all becomes cold yet riveting. The novel sounds like a saga of one man in search of more than just truth.
Telling a story with fine subtleties of back stories of old days and glory of good days, the author balances it brilliantly with the current feelings. Suarav Dutt is a fine storyteller, the way he picks up feelings and regrets to paint pictures of unspeakable pain is superb yet a little embarrassing. One might take time to read the book, but it is worth, and for sure it is going to linger long with the readers. From culture to life values to nature description, the novel comes alive with vivid description. All in all, a great novel of its own taste.
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