It is always a pleasure reading translations. To top it all, when it is a Marathi translation coming straight from the City of Dreams or the Commercial Capital of India- Mumbai, the feel is even better. Ganesh Matkari’s Khidkya Ardhya Ughadya has been translated by Jerry Pinto to Half-Open Windows; keeping intact the feel and essence of mayanagri Mumbai. A unique narrative about changing relations in the city, this is a novel in whole and yet complete in itself through the various chapters of the book.
An aspiring but insecure writer who is currently on job-break questions his relationship with his successful partner under the influence of his ego. A widow who clings on to the memories of days gone by refusing to relocate beyond borders with her son. A college-goer whose relationship with his girlfriend slackens over time. A young school-goer who constantly gets into trouble by planning against his rival gang in school. An efficient and sincere NGO worker, who gets enmeshed in the web of politics and blame game. An ambitious man who doesn’t hesitate to scapegoat somebody to save his life and reputation. These and more are the much relatable characters throughout the book.
As readers, we are introduced to numerous characters. It is interesting how the author chooses to incorporate different personalities with varying consciousness across age groups and economic classes. And yet, each plays an important part in continuing the narrative while describing the emerging boundaries of relations in contemporary societies.
Each chapter is narrated through the perspective of a different character giving the piece a feel of both a novel and short story. This enables the readers to experience various emotions – friendship, companionship, rivalry, loneliness, sincerity, politics, peer pressure, distancing, superiority, ambition, and much more. As they say, no matter how people are around you, in the end, you are always lonely. No better testament than this book to prove it. Each character is connected in the book, their individual decisions affecting one another in manners unknown to them.
A lot dwells on what could have happened, what is happening, and what ultimately happens. Interestingly, what one intends to do and what one actually does are different from each other and the vacuum between the two is filled with glimpses of experience, rationality, politics, and survival instincts.
Like all metro cities, Mumbai is fast-paced and the values of relationships are changing, maybe slightly more than in the other cities. Here, one tries very hard to fit in, even willing to bend their ways if need be. Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest could not have had a better city for experimenting with it. Every individual, especially in their mid-careers or middle ages; is searching for their younger face to help them continue living in the city. Their baggage of problems increases with age and oftentimes destroys them and the people around them.
In spite of several perspectives two points spark out from the novel. First, readers are given the backstory of every character leading to their decisions which affect the story as a whole. Keeping this in mind, there is no room for judging any decision. Second, the novel in totality as well as the character build-ups have their own ups and downs, but they always end on a positive and liberal note. That is precisely why the novel’s name Half-Open Windows signifies the opportunities one has lying ahead of them and not about the other half which is closed due to whatever may have been the reason.
Pinto’s experience with Marathi language and literature makes him the perfect translator of the original work. His choice of words and expressions touch a chord with the readers, especially while conveying situations closer to life. A book, though translated retains its originality in every aspect and delivers the message of how the city of dreams actually is, for those living in it.
No. of Pages: 189
Publisher: Speaking Tiger