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Something different, with a scent of youth.
Jun 28, 2004 12:00 PM 3210 Views
(Updated Jun 28, 2004 02:59 PM)



I don't know why it should be this way,

But I am so sad; an old time tale,

Will not leave my heart.

Heinrich Heine 'lorelei' (Opening poem to the book)

Indian writing in English is perhaps the best thing that ever happened to literature. Words fail me to describe the impetus it has had on the mainstream writing, because of the freshness it offers, with a tinge of history and a touch of masala.

Siddharth Dhanwant Shanghvi presents a fabulous debut with this novel, that too at a tender age of 27. Apart from holding an MA in international journalism and MS in mass communication he has in past worked as chef and a kennel boy.

What strikes out in this piece is his third profession, story telling. Last song of dusk qualifies as a fairy tale, a tale wrought with love, laughter, sadness, and a beautiful past. This book scores on the point that it keeps you riveted, with its ever surprising twists, the faints smell of a magical world, and the powers of the supernatural.

The main characters:

Anuradha Gandharva:

A girl turning into a woman, going through what she had not even expected in her wildest dreams, carrying with her a piece of history in form of the songs, the songs of Rajasthan, in her heart. These play the major part in the book, thus the title, and are fragrant as the scent of our soil.

Brought up in a secure household, she undergoes a journey which torments her in every way possible.


A practicing doctor in the affluent parts of Bombay, and sought after by all the nubile females, he is an upright person, believing in his morals. Pained by the early death of his mother, he seeks to find a cure, a cure to all the illnesses, plaguing our bodies, and his own heart.


how does having feline blood in your veins sound? Unbelievable, but it constitutes the major mystifying part of the novel. Ranging from walking on water, to eating birds, to creating portraits larger than life and a deep rooted desire to achieve the impossible, is what this girl is all about. Extremely beautiful and deadly.


the son, the meek, the disturbed, the person who suffered the most because of the irrefutable consequences in the book, he presents the picture of suffering, silent but true.

Side/interesting characters:

Divi bai: Vardhmaan’s step mother, she represents the evil, much more than traditional step mothers can even think of representing. A history of unforgiving cruelty is attached to her.

Radha Mashi: Anuradha’s mother’s sister, she represents the chic and the hep of the Bombay party circle and hosts never ending parties, wearing low-cut blouses, and inviting the people about town.

Even Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. I won’t elucidate on this one.

The house by the sea: one of the most sinister characters in the book, sends chills down the spine, isn’t it only a house? How can it do anything? But history it seems, gives a soul to every damned thing, even a house.

A brief outline:

The book explores love and hatred, deceit and trust. A question of belief. Revealing the plot of the story would be cruel to everyone, therefore I won’t say anything more.

Starting with the traditional rasm of selecting a groom for the bride, the novel opens with interesting twists right from the first 20 pages. Afterwards it shows how a simple tale, of a couple who love each other more than anything else, can be twisted and turned until the reader screams with pain, doubts the fairy-tale-like progression like move, and questions his own belief on such things.

Dhanwant Shanghvi brings a tale so fresh in its approach, and so vivid in detail that it is difficult to believe a 27 year old wrote this mature tale of maturity and a fight for love, with love, by love. The synopsis doesn’t give away much of the plot or surprises inside the main story, and in fact, lures the reader to find for himself. This tale unfolds over 2 generations of normal Indian families struggling with an abnormal history, like the blood of a feline in Nandini. Set in pre independence India the story is vivid with details of hatred, love, determination, and mysticism. This mysterious about some of the incidents cited made me really wonder, throwing the dilemma of believing it or not. But I would award this to a new style writing which I have not encountered.

However it’s a must read for those who like reading Indian writers writing in English. The font is subtle and fresh to the eyes, almost soothing, and the paper quality is good.

Pages: 298

Publisher: Penguin/Viking

Year of publishing: 2004

Parts: 4

Chapters: 46

After word:

If you want to visit the pre-independence with bits and pieces of our own culture and diversity, and want to live the unusual journey of these characters, then I believe this is it.

The most beautiful part of the book is the love which is described with an amazing ferocity, and gentleness. I haven’t read anything like it in years. I will be eagerly waiting for his next book.

Happy reading.

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Last Song Of Dusk, The - Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi