Chinno Sutra Review
- Gautam Nath (Retired Engineer based in Olympia, WA, USA)
Recently I completed reading Chinna Sutra, a Bengali novel. The author Dipankar Mitra asked me to review his novel some months ago and I agreed. I am sorry for doing a rather belated review.
The lucid style of Bengali used in the book steers the book through its pages effortlessly. The chapters are linked in a story style manner. The finished product, like a good quilt, is woven well. I got the quilt like comfort, spread and warmth after I finished the book. Like a good single malt scotch, it leaves lingering savoury aftertaste of honey, peaty smoke, vanilla and citrus fruit.
I have been so much detached from contemporary Bengali new novelists that I am not capable of comparing Dipankar Mitra’s novel with any of his contemporaries of same genre. However, I thought about some giants in Bengali literature like Bibhuti Bhusan Badopadhyay, Manik Bandopadhyay, Bimal Mitra, Samaresh Majumdar and Tara Shankar. So, I let the bar set high without the ambiguity of any dubious standard.
I pit him straight away against the stalwarts and why not? Some descriptions of Lonavala area nature and village in Chinna Sutra are in the mould of Bibhuti Bhusan’s description of Fulkia and Lobtulia. The theme itself could have been Tara Shankar’s or Samaresh Mazumdar’s. And the boldness is like Manik’s Padma Nadir Majhi with the consistency of a Bimal Mitra novel like Kori Diye Kinlaam. I am not exaggerating my praise. The hints of these literary elements remarkably exist in Chinna Sutra, making Mr. Mitra’s first novel a very good effort without any sign of being amateurish.
Now I think the language of Malabhuli village folks could have been better if the style was more colloquial and regional, like in Bibhuti Bhusan’s Aronyak. And the village Morol should have been given a name. I think Dipankar Mitra could do that but simply overlooked. Otherwise all the chapters on Malabhuli village and its development smack Bibhuti Bhusan’s style.
Dipankar Mitra could write a separate short novel just using this village and its inhabitants, Jaji, Prolay, Ajanta, Bunty, Rebecca and Ronaldo as a theme. But it ran a parallel course in this novel Chinna Sutra, adding a hybrid dimension that is quite refreshing.
After reading the novel, I got a pleasant feeling of, should I say, ‘buy one get one free’? The theme of the novel is quite bold, interesting and a pleasant departure from majority of the trash themes one encounters in today’s Bengali literature. The theme is a tinder box for potential vulgarity if fallen under a wrong pen. But Dipankar Mitra showed commendable maturity in handling such a theme, particularly the description of impregnation of Malini by Chidananda Baba was penned with artistry and poignancy. The conflict between the couple begged some more work. Time and again, Malini simply wins, while her husband Arjun coyly submits. Pages 119-125 are a bit prosaic and the exchanges between Malini and Arjun are a bit hyper. Nevertheless, there are no missing or ruffled threads in any area of the ‘quilt’, just some threads here and there are a bit more overtly colourful. Aditya, the father-in-law is too idealistic for a Bengali. His upbringing and view of life, society and morality is more like that of a rural Swedish father-in-law living in a cosy Paris suburb (pages 143-151). The author could have penned in more complexities in interaction between Aditya, Malini and Arjun, given the fact that Arjun’s first wife divorced him for his aloof and selfish workaholic life, Aditya was a reputed retired judge and Malini a sensitive and passionate woman with primal need for motherhood. Aditya is perhaps selfish and his attachment to and affection for Malini is due to dependence rather than geniality. Despite ample descriptions, the character of Aditya comes across as interesting as atypical and somewhat foreign. But such characters do exist in India, albeit rarely. In pages 179-181, the meeting with Chidananda Baba second time with Ananda and Aditya beautifully portrayed Chidananda’s restraint and spiritual stand against Malini’s exuberance and hanker for some emotional touch. Chidanana was almost business like in his spiritual approach to this meeting. And finally, the suspense took us through pages 208-214 where an adolescent Ananda pestered his dishevelevd mother about his identity. Eventually, Arjun, Ananda, Aditya and Malini had an emotional reunion where the cliché would have been a grand finale style reconciliation, a la Hindi movie. Malini is remorseful, Arjun is tired, Adiyta is an exhausted old man and Ananda is a charming young man, quite likeable to Arjun, his faux father. They cried, hugged and took time to rediscover the lost threads. Yet, Arjun did not come back to Malini and Ananda but kept the door open, somewhat vaguely. The end is quite nice and thought provoking. It leaves that single malt like aftertaste for a long time.
Overall, Mr. Mitra’s pen rationed every page of the novel with the dexterity of a seasoned novelist. The novel does not force you to take any side and does not preach any morality. It does not challenge the typical Bengali (or Indian in a broader sense) mind-set on society, marriage, divorce or birth out of wedlock. Neither does it shout to be different for the sake of being different. The plain fact is that it is a very nice novel. The author seems to be talented by today’s standard and expectation. People will read this novel once started.
It succeeds in making this budding novelist known to and appreciated by a broad range of Bengali readers. Gone are the days when a novel once published would remain untouched in subsequent prints. But in today’s media world, a revision is quite possible and some of the shortcomings I mentioned could be amended. Mr. Mitra is no spring chicken. He started writing quite late in his life. Yet I feel that he has shown enough talent that can sustain him as a contemporary Bengali novelist. We now have a Bengali novelist who perhaps is not motivated by monetary gain but by either a holistic or gutsy ambition of being recognized and appreciated. I suspect he pulled it from the ‘bucket list’ of his life, a feat which most of us are incapable of pulling, let alone pursuing.
I am told he has at least one more novel in the pipeline. His first novel Chinna Sutra already shows his novels will be read and recognized, trouncing many trash Bengali novels that have been popping up like wild mushrooms, some of which are not only inedible but quite poisonous. I look forward to reading his next novel.
The book contains two stories that run concurrently and merge towards the end. Mr Mitra’s beautiful fluid style of writing does give him credit and is going a long way to establish him as a much sought writer. In this book he introduces some strong characters and leaves the reader to form their own opinion and judgment. The main theme of the story is based on the age old instinct of procreation; overwhelming yearning for motherhood. The author deftly paints a vivid picture of the lead female Malini; we see that she has polarised emotions, on one hand she is capable of selfless acts of kindness and on the other hand she doesn’t hesitate to remove any obstacle on her path to achieve her desired goal, trampling over feelings of people she is supposed to care for. The author skilfully explores the bonding between Malini and her very progressive father-in-law where unconventional steps taken by Malini is wholeheartedly supported by her father-in-law, he almost sides with her rather than his own son; this is indeed unusual in the context of Indian society. The author explores the unchartered ground of ‘niyog’ method for impregnation , only heard of in the stories of Mahabharata and other mythology. All in all, an excellent first work by the author. However, as a reader I found the second story of the tribal village and its detailed description somewhat distracting and unnecessary.
সম্পূর্ণ নতুন স্বাদের উপন্যাস। দুটি সমান্তরাল গল্পকে যেরকম সাবলীল ভাবে এগিয়ে নিয়ে গিয়ে লেখক উপন্যাসটি দাড় করিয়েছেন তা লেখকের ভাবনা চিন্তার পরিপূর্ণতার পরিচয় দ্যায়। লেখক যেভাবে যৌনতার বিষয়টি উপস্থাপন করেছেন তা বিশেষ ভাবে দাগ কেটেছে । বহু প্রথিতযশা লেখকও যৌনতাকে উপস্থাপন করতে গিয়ে মাত্রা হারিয়ে ফেলেন। সেখানে একজন নতুন লেখক হিসাবে দীপঙ্কর মিত্র যে শৈল্পিক নৈপুণ্য দেখিয়েছেন তা অবশ্যই অভিনন্দন যোগ্য।
গল্পের বাঁধন, চরিত্র চিত্রন, পাঠকের মনোযোগ আকর্ষণের ক্ষমতা, যেগুলি একজন ভালো লেখকের মাপকাঠি, তার সবকটিতেই দীপঙ্কর মিত্র যথেষ্ট দক্ষতা দেখিয়েছেন।
ভবিষ্যতে লেখকের আরও গল্প/উপন্যাসের অপেক্ষায় রইলাম।