The Calcutta Chromosome


Author: Amitav Ghosh

Year of Publication: 1995

The book is a scientific fiction exploring how experiments must have been conducted in finding a cure for malaria and how relationships and situations merge together to give something which is more than what science can explain.

The book is an interesting scientific research study of knowing how the first cure of Malaria was found. What were the events which took place and how it resulted in what it did?

The author throughout the novel is curious and maintains the mystery for its readers to explore it like a detective, and doubts and suspects every evidence which comes through. The search alongside is more of relationships as well which are cultivated in the process.

As one continues to read, the readers who are familiar with Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ can seek a resemblance to a self-created idea which gives vibes of inauspicious events and happenings. It did to me as a reader.

Since Amitav Ghosh is a well-researched individual, it is difficult to find loopholes in the loopholes that he creates. The discovery is so real, that one eventually is lost in the process of solving the case. The entire plot is a puzzle which is solved in the end when all characters are seen intersecting and crossing paths, leading the reader to connect the dots.

Initially it takes a bit of patience to dwell into the intricacies of the plot, but when one is there, it is the reader, who is gradually writing the story and not the author.

Lutchman is an interesting character sketch which keeps the focus intact and is a research volunteer. His existence theory, leads to existence of  Malaria’s basic evolution.

Urmila is a struggling journalist who becomes a connecting link and happens to be the key piece in the puzzle to be completed. Her hunger for a coverage story, leads to a lot of revealing of information which the reader needs. She becomes the mouthpiece of this information.

There is a continuous shift in writing from present to past time and this is one of Ghosh’s writing styles which makes him worth reading. Once into the flow of the novel, the reader can’t keep the book down without finishing it.

It is a crossword puzzle where one alphabet is leading to another and by the time you realize you have a solved a word, you are on the verge of solving the entire puzzle.

There is no non fiction which doesn’t have elements of fiction in it. The author as educated and informative he is, has reflected these experiences in the forms of suggestions he has given as alternative to curing malaria for he has a liberty to alter the history in order to make it interesting for his reader. The knowledge of medicine and mutations makes the reader curious to also check what the actual history behind the cure was.

It’s a must read for those who love to travel through the narrative to find relevant meanings out of it.