“You had a way of looking at things which seemed sharp, perceptive, cobalt blue.”
Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar tells a story of two siblings falling for the same man who came to rent a room at their house. It was first published in 2006 in Marathi language, it was re-released in English in 2013 with translation by Jerry Pinto. The enigmatic man with no surname ruffled their lives with his carefree yet capitative nature. The book comprises two chapters—first told by the brother, Tanay, and the latter by the sister, Anuj—recounting the despairing events in their lives after he left. Both siblings didn’t know that they had fallen for the same person. None of the family members did.
Tanay liked the tenant since he met him. As the attractiveness towards him grew, soon he was helplessly in love with him. Their affair was always behind the closed doors since homosexuality was not accepted at that time. When Tanay found out that his sister eloped with the tenant, his life was in disarray. A few months later, his sister returned home after the tenant left her. Throughout his part, Tanay narrated towards his lover while he kept looking for the answers about the love of his life.
Anuj found the tenant interesting from the start. She was drawn towards his unique attitudes and before she knew, she was head over heels in love with him. They had a private relationship and one day she just happened to run away with him. When he abandoned her, she didn’t know what to do with her life so she returned back to her family. She had a breakdown and had to see a psychiatrist. As she tried to recuperate from her tragedy, though her journal entries, she asked herself why she loved this mystery man.
What interesting about this book is the ying and yang of narrative in both parts. Tanay had the freedom of spending time with the tenant behind doors but Anuj had to stay away from the man’s room because she’s a girl. Whereas Anuj could have a public breakdown when the man left her, Tanay was in a discreet catastrophe. The storytelling is immaculate and the unfair disadvantages of womanhood and queerhood in India is expressed brilliantly. Poetic yet powerful narration. Kundalkar was only 22 when he wrote this book. The translation was eloquent, as well. Such an enthralling and evocative read.
“Such colours, such colours. When you breathe out, I see red and yellow flashes in front of my eyes. When we’re in the bath together, surrounded by a surfeit of steam, it’s a misty blue. When the sun is shining and we look at each other from a distance, and we smile, it’s white, a shining white. If I’m talking to someone and mention you, my face changes, it’s a dark blue. Dark brown when I call out to you; peaceful green when you call out to me.”