Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar (translated from Marathi by Jerry Pinto) traces the story of love, loss and everything that remains after the loss. The narrative accompanies the siblings Tanay and Anuja as they recount their journey of falling in love with the same man- the paying guest who occupies the tower room of their traditional Marathi household. The novel is divided into two parts; the first part is devoted to Tanay’s recollections and the second to Anuja’s diary entries. The author makes very clever use of the two different styles of story-telling. Tanay’s narrative is a part of his process of remembering and understanding his lost love while Anuja’s diary entries are directed at recovering and healing from this loss.
The novel begins with the words ‘That you should not be here’, which is characteristic of the novel’s structure where the absence of the paying guest becomes central to the novel. Tanay addresses this absence as ‘you’ and Anuja as ‘he’ signifying the author’s conscious refusal to give the character a name. This lack of an omniscient perspective on the character adds to his mystery and keeps the reader glued to the novel till the end.
The language is simple and certain parts of the narrative are beautifully constructed, for example this poignant description of habits by Tanay ‘Perhaps that’s what happens during the forging of a relationship: if nothing else, you adopt some of the other person’s habits. It makes you feel those adaptations, those adoptions, make him one of you.’
Despite the non-linearity of the story the author has managed to keep the transitions between scenes very smooth and comfortable. The translator’s note by Jerry Pinto at the end is particularly fascinating.
My only problem with the book seems to be with its Hamish Hamilton 1st edition (2013) cover. The cover does not successfully embody the essence of the title and does not do justice to the various allusions to the colour cobalt blue in the novel. The tea-colored patches do more harm than good and serve as an unnecessary distraction.
The novel as a whole is a captivating read. The narrative is simple and not simplistic and it enthralls as much as disturbs. The combined genius of Sachin Kundalkar and Jerry Pinto create a story that will delight the readers and the critics alike.
– Ashwini Rajpoot