A modern mind vs a backward village
Shuva Das illustrates some previous century's glimpse that reflects the social rigidity, as depicted by the author
Marxist storyteller Manik Bandopadhyay (1908 -1956) was a dazzling novelist who enriched the basket of Bengali literature by his fictional works. His most writings notably deal with the existence of grief-stricken and wretched conditions in the context of rural Bengali people.
It is argued that the author shed light on the philosophy of Marx and the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud in 'Putul Nacher Itikatha' (The Puppet's Tale). That is why it is avowed that this novella belongs to the mainstream world literature. It was originally published in 1936 while Mou Prokashoni published it in 2016.
In this novel, Bandopadhyay created an immortal character Soshi Doctor, the protagonist, who attempts to upgrade his native village through using his trained and investigative mental lens on those relational, superstitious, and familial problems which intermingle with our societal vein.
Apart from that, this outstanding piece concerns about the individuals who contaminate the abstract society with their chicanery and devilry of mind. In one of his letters, the writer wrote that this novel was a humble protest against those who tend to play with the lives of humans as if they were puppets.
The story starts with the death of Haru Ghosh by thunder under a colossal banyan tree. The main character Soshi discovers the dead body of Ghosh when coming back his home by boat at dusk. He enters into his village with such a tragedy. Soshi is the son of Gopal Das, a business tycoon in Gaodia village.
After becoming a Medical Doctor from an urban medical college, Soshi's pastoral mind turned into a scientific one. In this regard, the author portrayed the knowledge divide between rural and urban areas by the miracle change in Soshi's outlooks. Despite sudden wishes of Soshi to stay city oftentimes, he could not abandon his village for his gluing affection upon it to serve its dwellers.
Haru Gosh's family plays a vital part in the novel. His son Paran is a sheer farmer whose wife is Kusum and whose sister is Moti. Kusum feels jealous to Moti as she assumes that Moti is more beautiful than she and Soshi is lovingly weak to Moti. Kusum endeavors to impress Soshi to satisfy her sexual appetite for this reason she goes to Soshi in different times and pretends that she is suffering from several diseases.
It implies that Kusum wants to establish an extramarital affair with Soshi who is not interested toward it for a certain time. However, in the course of time, a change pierces the heart of Soshi to be accompanied with Kusum, but she denies directly. The novel, in this regard, introduces readers about the sudden change of a cryptically married woman who once madly wanted to get Soshi.
In addition, there are two crucial sub plots in this novel. One is the story of Jadab Pundit and another is between Jamini and Sendidi. Jadab Pundit with his wife died through morphine- induced suicide to safeguard his unconscious statement which is "I will pass away in the next Rath Festival". He wanted to grab the superior position with his spiritual stance over Soshi's modern and seasoned treatment.
People from not only Gaodia but also some neighboring villages gathered in his house and made it a sacred place. Only was Soshi able to explore the true cause of the death. Amazingly, Pundit died testate, leaving his entire estate to Soshi himself to build a hospital. This donation reminds reader community that Pundit understood the victory of science over superstition.
The other (sub plot) is between herbalist Jamini and his wife Sendidi. Gopal Das arranged the nuptial of Sendidi with elder Jamini. Nevertheless, Das maintained clandestine sexual relations with Sendidi. Yet, he could not escape the shrewd eyes of Soshi. Giving birth a son with the hidden love of Das, Sendidi unexpectedly died. From then, the direction of this novel enters into a mystical path. Surprisingly, Soshi's father left home for Kashi with Sendidi's son and never came back at Gaodia.
The writer, in fact, made some episodes reflecting those events in the outlooks of the leading character. He also used rhetoric, metaphors and charismatic expression to highlight Soshi in the entire novel. Bandopadhyay took Soshi in a village to challenge the migratory proclivity of the educated section of people to city in the previous century.
This novel also signifies the discernment of animals over the corpse of human being; for instance, "Getting the permanent silence of Haru Gosh, a squirrel climbed down from the tree at a time". Kumud's desires to Soshi as a sexual partner and Das' erotically established affair with Sendidi hint the Freudian psychoanalysis regarding dense and inner psychological orientation of human beings for love and sex.
It is obvious that Soshi is a well-educated figure and he investigates any social problems experienced by him but he acts like a passivist in lieu of a reformist. Although this novel generates huge conundrums in the minds of readers due to the number of characters and theoretical flavor, it is a valuable asset in Bengali literature.
Surely, this time-honored novella is colored with keen intelligence and wit, colloquial language, a neat narrative, a profound awareness of social malpractices, and a robust focus upon the continual conflict between city and village. If we, hence, envisage it as a tragic or a romantic novel for deaths of some persons or relationships of a few couples, it will be very inappropriate.
A film was produced based on it in 1949. Honestly speaking, from the literary point of view, we will commit an intellectual sin provided that we attempt to get a towering understanding of the root fabrics upon Hindu society of the 20th century without this one.
The reviewer is a student of Dept. of International Relations at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science & Technology University (BSMRSTU).