Author: Alka Saraogi
Translator(s)/Editor: Khursheed Alam
Publisher: Sahitya Akademi
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8126018429
The title KaliKatha: Via Bypass signals a multilingual, multicultural subject and point of view. Kali-katha too is a pun on a tale of this Kali-yuga, the epoch of vices and the old name for Calcutta, Kalikata, where the novel is for the most partset.
Kishore Babu, born in 1925, wanders back to his school days, sustaining a head injury due to negligence during his heart bypass surgery in 1997 and starts roaming the streets of Calcutta on foot. This jaywalking transcends all the divisions of time and takes him to the times of his Great Grandfather Ramvilas Babu, to the shared story of a community and a city: The community of Marvaris who like migratory birds left their native desert land and of Calcutta of the British Raj.
Kishore Babu has lived three lives in one: the first encompassing the struggle for freedom in the 40s, with his friends Santanu, a follower of Subhas Babu and Amolak, a Gandhite till he was twenty-two. Then begins his second life at Independence, a life of full fifty years, which did not retain even a vestige of the first. Now in his third life after the bypass, it is the present that he has to come to terms with. In the process, he takes to dictating his story to a narrator, as the story of a man unaccounted by history, allowing a blend of two carats to the pure gold of 22 carats supplied by him.
Bypass is a keyword to the novel, and indicates the zeitgeist of our times, one of finding ways out of a problem rather than confronting it. Kishore Babu’s bypass takes him face to face with those situations which he had successfully managed to bypass so far.