The ebb and surge of life comprises of stories, some told, some untold. The journey itself is
multidimensional, a feast of sensations, a deluge of emotions, woven with intricate threads of reality, ambition, love, frustration, betrayal; you really have to be on the write-side of the story to fathom out just which strand can be drawn out into a narrative you would dearly love to have an audience for!
Such was the journey of “The Shotgun Wedding”, following the bewildering career trajectory
of its protagonist, Dita Roy, a city-bred woman, who lands herself a job as an English
Lecturer in an obscure college in rural Bengal. Here, in the village of Phulpukur, Dita meets a
rumbunctious set of people who are inextricably linked to the somewhat dubious functioning
of the college. The curious diorama of characters ranges from wily politicians like Palash
Bose with powerful mafioso contacts, reformed family members of an erstwhile dacoit like
Aditya Pundit and his sons, shrewd and scheming businessmen like Girish Sarkar, wayward
student activists like Rajeev and Utpal, and a mysterious stranger with startling grey eyes –
Raja. Raja is an enigmatic presence who haunts Dita’s conscious thoughts even as she tries to
come to terms with the bizarre set of circumstances that unfolds around her.
Though set primarily in rural Bengal, in the sleepy little village of Phulpukur, the narrative
swings back and forth between Phulpukur and Kolkata, engaging with the urban/rural
dichotomy of its characters. Thus, while Dita hails from Kolkata, she has to meet the
challenges of the patriarchal set-up of her workplace in Phulpukur; conversely, Raja starts out
from the village, struggling to find his place in the great world beyond. The shotgun wedding
stands as the climax to their hilarious adventures and misadventures, spinning out into a
crescendo of chaotic events that are covered on national television by the media sensation,
Germane to this story was a transient stint of my own professional life, a brief period during
which I served as Lecturer and Acting Principal for a remote college in West Bengal. On a
retrospective impulse I have travelled back to moments that intrigued me, ideas that
challenged me, memories that befuddle me and out of it all I have tried to craft a narrative,
using hard facts interspersed with flights of imagination that delves with subtle humour into
chasm of educational politics in Bengal.
The sparkling heart of “The Shotgun Wedding” however, is the breath-taking bond between
Raja and Dita, a flame that smoulders through the novel despite Raja’s deceptions, Palash
Bose’s aggressions and Dita’s own jejune beliefs. It begins on an innocuous note with Dita
mistakenly identifying Raja as an urchin who works in Gopal’s canteen and serves her tea.
Yet with time, their relationship encounters unfathomable turns leading up to their
unexpected presence in the infamous shotgun wedding.