Author: Sunil Gangopadhyay
Writing is a serious business!!
Sunil Gangopadhyay was a surprise discovery. Lying in a corner at Crossword book shop, I picked this author on an impulse because it fell into my genre of Bengali fiction, which is a key genre within India fiction which I can elaborate in another blog of mine.
His book Primal Woman is indeed primal to such strength that I had to google its meaning to confirm if I had got it right. And I did.
Here is what google says on Primal
I believe both apply 100%
The WOMAN is both Original and Basic. It's a poetic combo, but there is nothing like poetry in the stories. They are real naked. Baring our society to nothing. Some of the stories are so sad that you can feel the pain in your heart. The stories bring out ugliness of the society out in the open, a cynical mockery of any hope or beauty in life.
'Primal woman' the title story is about Adam- Eve and the primal woman Lilith. The ending of the story has the final gem, but it's very subtle unlike the drama of Manto's short story. In no way both are comparable but equally impactful.
Most stories are based around Kolkata and its neighbouring villages. The essence of Bengal and its simple life is seeped into these stories. Small villages of Badu, Rath-tala, Sanatanpur, Ronkalipur, are alive with stories and streets of Bashirhaat market, Adhbele bazaar, Line road are full of conversations.
Each character is intense and deep. See the variety of each character - lesbian couple, to idiot toilet attendant, to pregnant widow, a ghost catcher, innocent lovers.
My most favourite story was 'The Broken Bridge'. It had a mock story on taboo of same sex marriage in a small Bengal village. 'Nameless' and 'Flesh' were powerful renditions of a tragic life. There are lives like this all around us and still we do nothing to release them of their miseries. It's not only about poverty and hunger, but lack of freedom and respectable life along with it.
But one short story 'Only Half a Century', is a collection of many short stories over half a century from India partition to Bangladesh liberation to Indira Gandhi killing and the various lives in various times in over half a century. Somethings from this story, caught my attention and its worth sharing...
- on the attachment of humans to memories of little things
"Have they cut down the tree? Have you heard any news of it?'
"Aa lo, boro pishi!" The second woman gave a short laugh."They've cut the country in two, and you are crying over a tree."
- on family sizes
Theirs was an extended family. Including men and women, young and old, they numbered nearly twenty-eight members. 'Nearly' is an odd word to use when counting human beings. The fact is, theirs was a shifting population. Two or three left every year, and two or three appeared in their place.