If you have read any of my reviews on Bangla books, you might be aware that Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay is one of my favourite authors. My admiration and awe for his writing cannot be described by just ‘favourite’. The author’s USP is his characterisation – you’d be amazed to get into their psyche peeling off layers from apparently mundane characters. They are people around us, but each with a different story to convey through their eyes or words. Have you ever read an entire novel on dialogues, without a single paragraph of narration? I’ve been learning not only the nuances of fine writing, but more about life in general from this octogenarian author’s works. There’s rarely been a story where he has failed to impress me as a reader.
Jao Pakhi (Fly away, Birdie) is one of the more tender stories with lesser shock value from its characters. It’s the story of a young man named Somen. He’s a rookie just out of college with his dreams still shaping up. His father, a man ruled by his ideals, lives in a village building his own hut and growing his own crops. His mother, however, didn’t leave the city as she raised her two sons and a daughter, married them off and still lives with her family. She wants Somen to begin working and establishing himself in the world like his elder brother Ranen. She wants their father to hand them his money from a policy that is going to mature soon.
Somen is caught between his mother’s desires and strong maternal aggression to protect and secure her cubs, even at the expense of grabbing her husband’s last savings. And yet, Somen catches a glimpse of her mother carefully wrapping a clean saree and cleaning her face to apply her meager cosmetics when his father arrives from the village. It intrigues him – the threadbare line barely separating love and contempt (as hate would be too strong an emotion here).
He meets a strange, sublime girl whose possessions include an expensive Asahi Pentax camera and a blind pet dog. She, Rikhia, is a stark contrast to Somen’s classmate Anima in college. They are united by their love for Somen. Both women love him in their own ways and it doesn’t take much for Somen to realise that Rikhia, though much younger, is his destiny. He reaches the mystic plains of the village and finds out the surreal love from his father that he hadn’t fathomed yet.
It’s a mystical story of love and human relationships, bonding that is strengthened by ties of blood and genes, and the therapeutic values of living amidst nature. The tussle between urban and rural lives is portrayed beautifully and rural wins in this case. The book was written years ago when global warming wasn’t such a menace and yet Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay has always been vocal in favour of conserving nature and living amidst the greens. His writing is easy and a little surreal in this book that is bound to transport you into a mystic land.
Recommended for readers who love Bangla as this hasn’t been translated yet.
My Rating: 4.5/5
About the Author:
Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay (Bengali: শীর্ষেন্দু মুখোপাধ্যায়) was born on 2nd November,1935 in the Mymensingh district of erstwhile Bangladesh. He has written stories for both adults and children, and is one of the most popular author of contemporary literature in Indian Subcontinent. His father used to work in the Railways, and Shirshendu spent his childhood in many different places following his father. Memories of these places found their ways in many writings of Shirshendu. He passed Intermediate from the Victoria College and then took a Master’s Degree in Bengali from the Calcutta University. He started his career as a school teacher. Right now, Shirshendu is on the staff of the Ananda Bazar Patrika at Kolkata. He is also associated with the Bengali magazine Desh.
His writing career began with the publication of a short story in the famous Bengali magazine Desh, in 1959. In that same year, his first novel Ghunpoka (translated as Woodworm by Shampa Banerjee) was published in the annual Puja edition of Desh. First children’s novel – Manojder Adbhut Baari. He has received many awards for his work: the Vidyasagar Award (1985) for his contributions to the children’s literature; Ananda Puraskar (in 1973, and again in 1990), and the Sahitya Academy award for his novel Manabjamin in 1988.
Language: Bangla, Genre: Fiction/Drama
Author(s): Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Publisher: Ananda
Binding: Hardcover, Pages: 436
ISBN-13: 978-8177562729, ISBN-10: 817756272X
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Interesting review.The best part is it gives a glimpse of the story for all those who can’t read Bengali