Comet In The Village is a long and gripping book about a 29 -year-old Delhi-based journalist named Ulka Bhatt, whose life takes an unexpected turn when she hears the news of her father’s death in a road accident.
The story is narrated in Ulka’s voice, which is marked by stylistic flourishes and is yet a balanced and mature voice.
Written by Nitin Jugran Bahuguna, who had been a journalist for sixteen years with the United News of India, the novel manages to paint a series of beautiful images for the reader, making us clearly take note of everything that touches upon the protagonist’s life.
A proof of which can be seen even in the opening paragraph of the book: “The clear cobalt of the sky has always struck me as one of the most matchless features about the mountain terrain of Uttarakhand. Today, however, its beauty left me unmoved as I took in mechanically the lush green splendor of the hills enfolding me while the waters of the Yamuna gurgled energetically below. It was late October and Dussehra festivities were over signaling the onset of winter, a divine time with chilly nights and dawns but warm, robust afternoons.”
The author does a fine job as a storyteller — it’s the novel’s plot that keeps us hooked to it. The story goes on smoothly without any hiccups. But great thing about this novel is its readability — Bahuguna’s prose is crisp, his metaphors memorable, and his style unique.
The plot of the story thickens when Ulka arrives in her village — Mirasu, a small hamlet in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand — for her father’s last rites and to wind up his farming ventures. She is jolted with the news that she has a young half-brother. Now the author has portrayed this scene, of the two meeting, in a very light and amusing manner. For when the two meet, Ulka says, “I blinked at the dazzling youth standing on the porch. Slightly shorter than me, he couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen. I took in the dark, wavy hair, complexion that screamed poster boy for the burgeoning fairness cream industry in India.”
The story moves on, and owing to a few unimaginable and at times unreal events, Ulka has to stay back in her father’s house. What follows are challenging a number of her encounters with the denizens in her secluded villagem, who test her levels of patience in most amusing ways. The book ends with a chilling climax that “teaches her that evil can lurk anywhere, even in a sleepy scenic mountain hamlet”, as the book jacket itself spells out.
The author does a fine job as a storyteller — it’s the novel’s plot that keeps us hooked to it. The story goes on smoothly without any hiccups. But great thing about this novel is its readability — Bahuguna’s prose is crisp, her metaphors memorable, and her style unique. So the thing you’ll most remember after reading this novel, much more so than its story or characterisation, is the quality of the writing and the cogency of Ulka’s voice.