Train to ‘Hindu’stan…

‘Mukhavata’ and ‘Hindu-Pricey Junk of Living’ Juxtaposed!

On 341st page of his novel, ‘Hindu’, Bhalchandra Namade quotes, “…napping modestly and yawning fearlessly we heard the Maharaj’s long talk…”

It is ditto true for his hardbound copy of the 600+ page novel.

Till you reach the above sentence, the novel forces you to writhe, yawn, sleep, and practice any anatomical activity connected with the big hole of your mouth.

To give a little favourable tilt to Nemade, let us rewind by 50 pages of the book. Be cautioned that you may have to find ‘adgalichi kholi’ (junk yard) to store your yawns.

It is a dreary journey of 6000 years traversing from Mohenjo-daro to Morgaon in Khandesh, exact opposite of Khushwant Singh’s ‘Train to Pakistan’, a tale that talks hardly about couple of years, yet is very intriguing.

There are a few unusual anecdotes in the novel. Say, a rod of the flag roped in the holes filled with excreta or nobody might have experienced such inhuman discipline in a village life; are examples of black humour, extra ordinary.

Sparsely scattered erratic statements of such kind may make you laugh and further think a little but they make nothing novel for a writer who demolished the norms of bourgeois writing in Marathi.

Since the writer was on a tour promoting the novel that he didn’t appreciate in the past, it would be recommended if he or his protégés (as Nemade has accepted in a recent interview about a cult in his name – Nemadpanthi) look at the cataloging by some naïve librarians.

There is a possibility that the book will be listed under travelogue. This is an assumption based on earlier experience. The pages occupied by the journey from Pakistan to his native village have spelled a long shadow on the book like an adventure document.

Further, in an interview to “The Hindu” on 4.7.10, Nemade said, “English has exempted writers from being authentic, they use a language which may not be understood properly and the slang they use, maybe Black slang, put into the mouth of a white girl or an Indian or a coolie. It is so superficially Indian, a sort of a touristy narration, only meant for tourists.”

How true! The first part about his nativism. The last sentence about himself omitting the word ‘only’.

The original story revolves around hard-pressed rural morals and lifestyle. Relationships in a joint family, latent hostilities created due to them, happy and sad incidents, open and hidden enmity brewing, sad tales of the villagers, and slow changes taking place, are narrated, but not as a researcher, though the protagonist, by profession is so! Sadly, the narrations, sometimes tend to sound like chin-waggings, bad for an archeologist.

Khanderao, the protagonist, unlike his brother, wants to break away from the rural family life to avoid ensuing responsibilities of a wealthy farmer-rich but hard working and chase higher education in a city. Unsuccessful in his endeavour, he has to go back to the village and take over the reigns after his father. In short, to surrender before the situation for the time being. Here ends first volume of the book.

Nothing wrong?

Nothing wrong, though Khanderao says – the cacophonic modern intellect feels that the morals like love, affection and co-existence are despicable; and yet hurries from Pakistan with help of whosoever offers it, facing all the difficulties like cross-border tough formalities and horrendous journey of thousands of miles to have last glimpses of his dying father?

It’s a touch and run away game of Kabbadi so far. Let us wait and hope that the sequels win the match as in Nemade’s early quadruplet. Interpreting dialogues without inverted commas is a jarring reading experience, let the writer be under a sweet impression of revolutionary attempt. Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago, Nobel Prize winner of 1998 in his novel ‘Blindness’ did give the grating experience perhaps to doubly imbibe metaphorically the ‘shit’ environ! A deliberate attempt?

However, imagine how irritating it would be to the hired public readers (pun intended) to read and listeners to listen a few punctuation-less paragraphs meet both ends!

Earlier, in ‘Teeka Swayanvar’, his book on literary criticism, Nemade criticized a poet as ordinary without quoting the name about writing poems on anything the poet came across. He might have had Sadanand Rege in mind, I have a strong feeling. If not, let him declare it. Subsequently, Namdev Dhasal after getting Sahitya Academy Life Time Poet Honour said that the honour should have gone to Sadanand Rege before him, quieting Nemade on the issue further as he was from the beginning.

And now read the following:

‘Aani vruttaswatantryacha zala tyachya aayalaa raada ho..o..o…’
(And freedom of press, swear by mother, is shattered eh…)

‘Sadhoo, Sadhoo. Lokshahichya paayaat raahoon paayaa kudtarnaare hey Panchamstambhi – Kavine tyanchi suyogya sambhavana keli’
(Amnesty. Residing in the establishment of democracy these foundation scratching conspirators – The poet derided them well)

The keywords like above might have been sowed, consciously or otherwise.

After reading the proclamations in ‘Hindu’  and dissecting the above keywords, I could not escape reminiscing ‘Mukhavata’, a mammoth 550 demi-plus-page document written a decade ago by the foremost novelist in Marathi, Arun Sadhu, who started his career writing on revolutionaries like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. How elegantly has he traveled into an evolutionary writing silently, in a lucid manner without making hue and cry about any “ism”!

It’s a thorough and well spun narration of the crumbling rural ethos. The novel revolves around progress through education by family members who left the village, tried to reach the peak of individual progress and the pathos of their siblings left in the village. The frustrations of both kinds of siblings and the towering matriarchal reservoir of understanding, Nani, holding the balance of the family tree with her inborn wisdom suffuse slowly in you. The conflict between the crisis of conscience and the unyielding obstinacy along with the bewildering journey of the characters through labyrinthine nightmares unfold without any singultuses in a manner untold so far in Marathi.

There should be no hiccups to rank ‘Mukhavata’ in the line of Dostoevsky and Marquez works, minus the sexual overtures. Arun Sadhu is a self-effacing author who believes in the power of fiction to ameliorate society and perhaps the only writer who shuns self-promoting in the realm where internationally recognized authors have surrendered.

The comparison arises at this point. The land to graze literally was immense. One exhibited a painful look of plowed terrain. The other has the inner strength of self-preserving against the cultural alteration!

The rickety Marathi literary magazines and their infantile surveyors are not even aware of the fact that ‘Simhasan’ and ‘Mumbai Dinank’, both written by Arun Sadhu, are possibly the highest selling novels in Marathi and still going strong with second generation after 35 years of their publishing which the readers of Marathi know. ‘Mukhavata’ is beyond their reach of perception. They live a life sans complexities, mentally tired since childhood and physically tired now.

However, if you are a serious and not a runaway reader, read Mukhavata’ immediately after ‘Hindu’. You’d understand how the writers of different genre weave the same milieu in their style.

‘Mukhavata’ unfolds the truth and thought behind the ethos that a woman who comes from a totally different environment finally conserves. She assimilates with the new atmosphere while assuming the responsibility against the male escapists and swellheads alike; a garrulous protagonist of ‘Hindu’ knuckling under the situation, devoid of a continuum that could have embraced the universe.

Forget the promotions, interviews and reviews. They accompany you like sycophants.

Nemade forgot that, Sadhu did not.

Remember, reading is like wandering through a territory of solitude.

P.S.: About 2 decades prior to Nemade started thinking about ‘Hindu’, Khushwant Singh wrote ‘Train to Pakistan’(1956) his first novel hitherto rated as his best making you shiver at the thoughts of Hindu-Muslim divide. The torturous train journey under looming death shatters your conscience completely. Woven around partition, the novel of 250 plus pages is described as scripted in blood.

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