Some books grab you by the throat, some lie next to you under shady trees on summer afternoons in companionable silences, and some, you must coax and cajole into a friendship. My Kind of Girl by Buddhadeva Bose started out being the third kind, but by the time I finished, it had become the second. My relationship with this book was one of old school romance - just what the book is about.
In the 'literary' age where more people know of E L James than say, Jane Austen, where consummation comes before courtship, My Kind of Girl is a 'difficult' book. It is a book that forces you to slow down, a book that will take you back in time to an inhibited world, where the only way of loving was longing.
My Kind of Girl, a translation of the Bengali 'Moner Moto Maye' is really a collection of four short 'love' stories held together by a looser, larger plot. Four stranded travellers - a doctor, a writer, a bureaucrat and a contractor - find themselves in the waiting room of a railway station and must spend a night together. They seek the warmth of each other's love stories to fend off the cold in their air and their hardened hearts.
Stories of young, and mostly unrequited love are narrated, transporting the reader to a time of innocence, a time purity, a time where a brush of the beloved's hand was enough to last one a lifetime. There is the thick-headed Makhanlal's story of love for his neighbour that never comes to pass; Gagan Baran, the bureaucrat's story of Pakhi, who loved him as a 16-year-old and forever after; Dr. Abani's story of how he met his wife through a friend who broke her heart; and the writer's story of 'Mona Lisa', who he and his two best friends loved and lost together.
Every story is told with a tenderness we, as a people, as readers, have forgotten. To those who've grown on the fodder of Mills & Boons and Sidney Sheldons, Buddhadeva Bose's book will seem painfully primitive in the beginning. But one must give it time; one must open their hearts to the kind of love that is not about easy, sweaty sex and porn-perfect characters. One must slowly dance to the plaintive flute that a lovelorn heart plays. One must partake of the pain of longing, a pain that has no recourse or end. There are no happy endings, just twinges of sorrow to take back from these elegiac love stories. These are stories about 'Your kind of person', but one you can never have. Through its stories and its style, My Kind of Girl harks back to the romantic in you, the romantic you thought was gone forever.
Kudos to Arunava Sinha for translating not just the words but the delicate sentiments bound within the pages of this book. But this book is only for those who know how to take it slow.