Unforeseen Desires by Anil Chopra is the story of Arun, a young doctor interning at a hospital in Dehradun. The simple yet charming tale takes shape during the days of Emergency. He is in that typical phase when youngsters start earning, suddenly taste freedom, and yet struggle to make their pay last an entire month, worrying about rent and food.
At such a time, Arun seemingly loses a senior doctor’s wedding rings and is told that he will have to pay for it. His quest for a decent accommodation, meanwhile, ends at Victoria’s bungalow. She is a British missionary who has spend years in the foothills of Himalayas and now considers this her home. At work, Arun is torn between his affection for a nurse, Trishna, and a fellow intern Sujata. His emotions experience a romantic roller-coaster, as men his age, often go through.
The author is from the medical profession and has grown up in Dehradun and Mussoorie. The foreword by legendary author Ruskin Bond, indicates that the story is loosely based on Chopra’s stint as a medical intern there. The book moves at an easy pace, painting a nostalgic picture of Dehradun during the 1970s, when tea shops and letters were a big part of lovers’ life. Steady dose of political background makes one understand how life was during Emergency.
Like the time when Arun was caught by the police for alighting from a bus at a red signal and taken straight to a makeshift vasectomy tent, where doctors and police were trying to reach Indira Gandhi’s ‘population control’ target. Luckily, a doctor recognised him and Arun escaped with everything intact.
Comparisons can be drawn on how the governance and politics changed after the Emergency, with what some parts of India are going through, at present. Right-winged local politicians became stronger. Unforeseen Desires puts not just Arun’s love interest into perspective, but also Victoria’s dilemma of whether to stay back in India or return to England.
Pick this book up if you like the way Mr Bond writes, because Chopra’s guardian sure has a heavy influence on him.