For its October read, Sanskaari Girls Book Club was joined by the Queer Resource Centre, One Future Collective in reading Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar.
Released in 2013, Cobalt Blue deftly deals with the themes of sexuality, family and society. Set in the city of Pune, the story follows a pair of siblings, Tanay and Anuja, who fall in love with the with the same young man who comes to stay at their house in Pune as a paying guest. Written in Marathi, it was the debut novel of its author and soon was re-released in 2013, after being translated into English by Jerry Pinto. The Sanskaari Girls Book Club read the novel in its monthly meet ups in Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.
Bangalore (13th October)
The Bangalore meet up was conducted by Samragni Dasgupta. The turn out was of around 6 people. The discussions surrounding the book dealt with several themes such as matters of translation, and the style of narrative employed in the novel. The discussion brought up a crucial point of analysis among the participants: in reading translated works of regional authors, whose words do we come to love? Is it the true author’s narrative that we grow to associate or is it the words of the translator that hold more meaning? This point of analysis allowed the discussion to then further blossom and look into other translated works and therefore attempted to navigate the question of translations and ethics of translation itself. The characters themselves intrigued the participants and most felt like they associated and connected more with the melancholy of Taran over that of Anuja’s. Overall, the meetup was well received and everyone in attendance seemed to have enjoyed the novel and its discussion.
Delhi (13th October)
The Delhi meet up was conducted by Ashita Alag. The turn out was of about 6 people. Delhi’s meet up brought up a lot of different points to consider in regards to the novel. The discussion ranged from talking about feminism to the impact of childhood sexual abuse on people. The position of the characters as feminists or not was deeply explored. Tanay and Anuja once again struck a chord with the participants, this time with a focus being on the moralities of the characters in the novel. Grief and methods of dealing with it was discussed in conjunction with the different coping mechanisms Tanay and Anuja employed themselves. The various writing styles used by the author were of great importance to this extent and helped address the multi-faceted text. Where does the novel go next was a question of great excitement as the readers explored how the storyline and relationships might progress from where the book left them. Participants discussed their favourite lines from the book. The discussion ultimately left people with quite a lot to reflect upon.
Pune (18th October)
The Pune meet up was facilitated by Sanjana Kulkarni. The book club was attended by 4 people. The setting of the book, which is Pune itself, marked the beginning of the discussion. The discussion revolved around the experiences of the attendees themselves in regards to the culture surrounding them. It further went on to note how it affects one’s way of thought, in contrast to how they truly might feel. Tanay and Anuja resonated once again with the audience, with their raw emotionality being quite relatable. Their relation to love and longing and then the experience of indescribable grief was quite enlightening for the readers. The general feedback received was quite positive and the attendees offered to spread the word about the Club.
Mumbai (13th October)
The Mumbai meet up was facilitated by Nishma Jethwa and Shruti Venkatesh. The meeting was attended by 7 people. The facilitators worked on establishing a safe space for everyone and this allowed for a free flowing conversation on topics such as that of mental health and queer experiences. Tanay’s experiences and his discovery of his sexuality, as well as the support, that the siblings received, or not, allowed for wider conversations to open up with regards to these issues, especially in the context of India. The writer’s style and how it affected narratives of Tanay and Anuja differently was also a point of the discussion and this allowed a branching out into exploring how the novel might have been if it was written from another perspective. Anuja’s characterisation as a radical and independent woman led to wider discussions on what it means to be a woman and shoulder the accompanying familial expectations. In regards to the siblings, the role of the paying guest was theorised upon. Attendees shared some of their favorite parts from the novel and a special focus was placed on the translator’s note at the end. Language and translation and the gaps within this was interestingly explored. The attendees all pitched in into the discussion and the group merged well together throughout the whole event.
The different meetups held ended up highlighting diverse points of analysis for the novel. The theme of grief was most often pointed out and spoke illustratively of how youth perceive emotionality in novels. Translation as an important area of interest was also repeatedly highlighted upon. All in all, the meetings went really well. Sanskaari Girls will be hosting its next book club closer to the end of the year.
Shruti Venkatesh is the Program Director of the Queer Resource Centre at One Future Collective.
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