Book Review of Ode to Dignity (A Novel in Ballads by Vikrant Dutta)

Ode to Dignity, Leadstart Publishing (Pages-336), ISBN: 9789381836309, Year of release:-2012, Price: – Rs 245.

Reviewed by: Dr Shamenaz, Associate Professor, Deptt of Applied Science & Humanities, AIET, Allahabad.

Ode to Dignity is the maiden book by Vikrant Dutta, who is a defence officer by profession. Being, the first ever novel in rhymed ballads by an Indian writer in English, it is an experimental work, consisting 1645 lyrical ballads which soothe as they engage. It is for the second time a novel in verse has been published by an Indian writer, the first of this kind is by Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate.

Ode to Dignity is a novel in rhyming ballad verse which has war in its background. The novel starts abruptly when Major, who was residing with his wife and daughter, was called for duty. But it is a story of a young Lieutenant who goes to break the tragic news of his senior’s death to his wife. Major, who was named as Adam Wright was his hero, who guided him in the battle heroically. They had fought the battle very bravely and gained victory but the Major succumbs to his injuries and was not able to escape from death. So it was left for the young Lieutenant to go to the Majors home to inform the news to his widow.

The author had described the scene of Lieutenant coming to break the death news to Major’s wife very painfully:

Came the Lieutenant, early morning,

The look on his face, I knew it all,

Say, say you’re lying, this is a dream,

My imagination gone wild, say he’d call. (19)

He further describes the painful event:

It’d had happened, my worse fears,

Was he gone, couldn’t be true,

Consolation, condolence, not what I seek,

He left us, they got their due. (19)

His wife was so much in shock about his husband’s death that she enquires again and again about the last moments of him from Lieutenant and so he has to tell her each and every instance of it. She also shares her memories of his beloved husband from the time she was a young girl, and the Major had wooed and married her. He had always carried out his responsibilities of a husband and father. The Lieutenant was greatly inspired by the Major and tells her each and every moment which he has spend with this to his wife, he also shares his own life and how he worked hard in school and his aspirations from life and the woman he hoped to love and marry with her. He tells her about some emotional incidents of his life like the farewell of his favourite teacher. It is quite interesting to know as Dutta has himself said that he has written this instance on the basis of his early childhood memory of his Maths teacher, Satyen Sir’s retirement assembly. In a manner, he seems to remember that moment and so this can be termed as subjective. Over the two days which he spends in her house was very emotional moment as they both shares their thoughts and through this they develop a bond between them.

In her house, a strange thing happened which changed the Lieutenant’s course of mind and that is the coming to his mother’s soul. While he was going to sleep at night, the Lieutenants mothers’ soul comes into the Lady’s daughter and she talks to him and shares his childhood and gives him some instructions and guidance for his life and as morning falls, the soul goes away. In the morning, the Lieutenant then goes away to his house after sharing all his thoughts with the lady. But after this separation, they both realize that distance has done precious little to what they share and in time they come to each other and belong.

The novelist has ended the novel by giving a message to the readers:

If hopes are strong, and dare to dream,

Even can swim across the sea,

For what is impossible, could lay at our feet,

Much like a child, could be filled with glee. (336)

In the background of the novel, we see love as major force acting upon the characters, as we see the love-affair of Major and his wife and later a much matured love of Lieutenant towards her.  It also reflects the conditions of those families where any member of the family is in the defence department fighting to safeguard other’s lives.

The novel deals with the beautiful theme of love and survival. It inspires us that life is very beautiful and we should live it, no matter the circumstances are worse and adverse but we should seek our heart’s desire. The main character, Major’s wife, sees that her destiny is full of the joys and sorrows as determined by her fate, and so it is necessary to accept a good relationship to experience all that life has to offer her.

The book constitutes 1645 rhymed ballads which follow the meter abcb mostly but some verses also follow the meter abcb and abbb. Each verse crafted beautifully showing the pain, nostalgia, love and eagerness of Major’s wife and the Lieutenant. It is a great and a unique work in times when literary form like ballad is fading day-by-day.

He has used many phrases in the novel to show the intensity of feeling of Major’s wife and the Lieutenant, like:

Building castles out of sand. (312)

Not every verse that’s written, rhymes, (328)

You’ve been much more than the world. (330)

This shows writer’s fondness for English literature and language.

Through this novel, Dutta seems to take us back to the world of Romantic age with the use of imagination. It is a magnificent piece of work, reminding us of the classic novels of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. The language of the verses, use of words and narration shows that the writer is well-read in English Literature. The writing style of the novel is really captivating, forcing the readers to read again and again. Full credit goes to the hard-work of the writer, who has taken so much pain to write such a masterpiece for the lover of English literature.

 

 

 

 

 

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