Sunday 3 January 2021

Victory Colony, 1950

Finished January 3
Victory Colony, 1950 by Bhaswati Ghosh

This historical novel is set in Calcutta, India shortly after Partition. It follows two young people whose lives interact. One of them is Amala, who arrived in the city with her younger brother Kartik as a refugee from East Bengal. They have few possessions and no money, and when Amala looks for food on their arrival, Kartik goes missing. Faced with the threat of police, Amala agrees to join a group of refugees being taken to the Gariahata Refugee Relief Centre. The group of young men that volunteers at the Centre and helps organize the supplies needed includes the second main character, Manas Dutta. Manas is from a good family and near the end of his studies. His father raised him to be considerate of others and encouraged his participation in the larger world. Although his father has passed away, his influence is still strongly felt by Manas. 
Manas lives with his mother and his grandfather in a large, stately home, with a small number of servants who come in for their daily work. But it is a far cry from the situation at the refugee centre, where the housing is temporary, food supplies are limited, as are other amenities. 
As we see Amala grow in confidence, moving through her grief to help others around her, organizing the women in ways to make themselves not only useful but to find ways to bring in some much-needed money, we see her inner strength and goodness. She is a smart woman, who learns quickly and wants to help those around her get ahead as well.
Manas too grows here from a schoolboy doing good deeds, to a man who becomes self-sufficient and starts his life independent of his elders. He is smart as well, and a good organizer and planner, who thinks of trying to make life better for everyone in his world.
I enjoyed see both of these characters grow, both in themselves and in their regard for each other and those that shared their world. I enjoyed Manas' grandfather as well as he came out of his shell of privilege and took the time to learn more about his grandson's friends.
I also learned a lot of Indian phrases and terminology that were conveyed seamlessly here, without the need for a glossary. The author reaches back into her own heritage to create a world I would be interested in following further. A very enjoyable read.

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