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Ideospheres of Pain by June Nandy, The Statesman, Kolkata Edition, May 23, 2011

TWENTY-ONE-OLD engineering undergraduate, Romila finds herself doubting the inconsistent thought-patterns of the city-custodians — predominance of communism yet prepotency of communal tendencies, revolution yet genocide, SEZ yet militant trade unionism, pro-poor veneer yet dangerous levels of corruption and police atrocities, liberal façade yet reductive templates of patriarchy, caste politics and moral policing by religious terror outfits.

She urges her mother to leave the city with her, but Ma is of the opinion that it is the archaic ideologies that has to be rejected, not one’s own city. A threatening situation for Romila: conform or discard, unable to run or to be locked in — she finds coasting herself into a contemplative cul-de-sac.

Resolving to embrace the city for her mother’s sake, she resolves to fight. With Kanishk, Sayak and Aryan — her three dear friends — she impugns the diabolical state agenda and its debased values. By then, Calcutta reveals its humane side through its compassionate culture and humble lifestyle. During this journey of knowing her city, Romila finds true love and gains a strong bond of friendship.

Each character turns out to be a victim. Aryan loses his parents to genocide, Kanishk his sister to riots; motherless Sayak loses his love. The friends lose their classmates in campus violence and no miraculous power descends to change their jilted lives. Finally, through Romila’s speech at the convention students realise that stable governance is not about avoiding confrontation but of ensuring happiness and that happiness is the greatest good of society. No ideosphere is more important than man’s basic right to life and liberty.