The Calcutta Chromosome
- Amitav Ghosh
I chanced upon this novel when a team presented it for the course, "Contemporary Indian Novel and Drama in English" which I took last semester.
The distinguishing feature about this novel is that, it doesn't end when the book finishes. It stays in your head for some more time till you actually get the story right. It takes time for you to comprehend. And what you comprehend may or may not be what the author wanted you to comprehend. May be the author did not want you to comprehend anything in particular but rather left it open ended for you to comprehend whatever pleases you or may be the author left it abruptly ended because it was too obvious to comprehend the rest though I didn't turn out to be as smart as he expected his readers to be.
Yes, it's confusing. That's why I said 'distinguishing' and not the usual words like best or worst. It just distinguishes it from other novels.
It talks about the research findings of Ronald Ross regarding malaria and goes on to talk about a secret cult following the religion endorsing Silence as a mother goddess and talks about the anti-knowledge which refers to changing what you in order not know it anymore.
It talks about the concept of the 'Calcutta Chromosome' : a chromosome like cell which carries characteristic traits but not passed on through generations and lies in the brain; does not reproduce but passes on through the malarial parasite which also works as a cure for syphilis. Due to this transfer of this chromosome it is possible for immortality through changing bodies and doting new incarnations.
The author has put in a lot of imagination, thought and work into it to make it a perfectly interesting read. In fact, it would make a better read for the westerners because of the oriental image painted so well finally leading to the mother goddess to reveal the scientific discoveries of eminent scientists.
It's a welcome relief from all the heavy doses of philosophical and humanitarian ideas from all the books I have been reading. I found it an amazing novel. It made me want to read it with the right amount of suspense that had been missing in the past few novels I read, namely Paulo Coelho and Khaled Hosseini.
It has doses of Indian suspense, drama, science, magic and spiritual sense.
The novel as such doesn't make sense, but when you make sense out of it that is what I mean by comprehend.
Bottom line: Read it. Whether you like it or not, you'll find it interesting.