Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Amitav Ghosh - The Calcutta Chromosome

Luckily for me I picked up the scintillating Sea of Poppies first. Egged on by my friend Oxymoronic who waxed eloquent about Amitav Ghosh, I made bold to order The Calcutta Chromosome too.

Right in the first chapter I was highly gratified when Ava was introduced. It is not often that I find my namesakes in literature and this one is not merely a woman, she is a computer, a worthy successor to Hal. Ava is an intelligent, interactive computer who is equipped to solve ALL the problems of the world.

The story goes something like this. Antar is some kind of a worker for an insurance firm who need not leave his home. He is (sigh – yeah dream on) connected to work from home. His computer, Ava (sounds lovely eh?) pops up some information at him which intrigues him. He finds himself in pursuit of a colleague Murugan, given up for lost since long. Murugan had been hot on the chase of Dr Ronald Ross who was the person who discovered all about malaria. In his pursuit Murugan had found out that Dr Ross, who had conducted most of his experiments in India, had mysteriously acquired two assistants, Mangala and Krishna. Murugan pursues all the leads relentlessly in his quest for truth, culminating in his disappearance.

The book is full of medical-scientific references, after all it is about malaria. Murugan discovers (thru Ross) that malaria, apart from being fatal in instances, also cured syphilis. And that the fever was not all bad. And that the Indian natives, with their acute observation, had cottoned on to these facts and were in fact, feeding the information to the good doctor. It was the earthy, wise and manipulative natives versus the stupid, easily influenced Brits.

From being a racy, cerebral thriller, the book, towards the end, disintegrated into almost an Alice thru the looking glass finale when all the characters turn into cards and fly at her. I felt a little like Alice myself, lost and puzzled and wondering why the pace picked up so much towards the end, why all the clues were coming so fast towards Murugan, why was he making so many discoveries. I almost drowned in the sea of information and forgot what we were all looking for in the first place, Me and Antar and Murugan and Urmila.


Oxy said...


I had read it some 5 yrs back and of course remembered just a bit here and there. And I had liked this book and went on to read all his books.

Do not be disheartened by the confusion and pick his other books as well. The guy is no doubt amazing.

Smita said...

Ava an intelligent computer!

Ahem! Ahem!

Socho to, liquid computer :D

Between u n me read Oxy uncle's reco only when u wanna sleep ;-)

On a serious note, I have picked one of Mr. Ghosh's book, don't remember the name though. Lets see how it will be...

BTW by any means is it robin Cook types?

couchpapaya said...

ava - now i remember!!! i did read this book, in fact i picked it up before glass palace, largely the reason why i picked that up in the first place. i loved the sci-fi aspect, esp all the discoveries in calcutta and the medical things but ur right the end was sooooo crazy. didnt they all turn up arnd antar or am i thinking of some other book? i must re-read i think ....

avdi said...

Oxy.. I do vouch for the fact that his writing is amazing. I will pick up more of his books, thats for sure. And I am waiting eagerly for the sequel to Sea of Poppies.

Smita -- ahem ahem.. me to phool ke gubbara ho gayi. Btw, I like Oxy's recco's usually ;)

Papaya - Yes it is the same one. Readable and intriguing but a bit too juggly at the end.

Oxy said...


U n ur chick-lits can go n take a hike.. n u picked 'The Hungry Tide' if I remember.. Pls show some interest in Ghosh. U would like him for sure. N yea he ain't robin cook type... Robin always sucked to me big time..


That reminds me I have to read sea of poppies. Allah!!!!wakt kahan hai..

couchpapaya said...

ms avdi - ur tagged. please to visit my latest post !

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