We all know of writers – writers who are not from the country we know more of. We eagerly wait for their books to publish, so we can savour them in the comfort of our homes and bedside reading lamps. However there are times when we tend to forget Indian Writers of the years gone by, who lived in different times and wrote excellently. The reason could be only that we did know of them in school as a part of the Hindi curriculum and therefore feel that they cannot be read otherwise.
Off late I have been discovering or rather re-discovering such writers and one of them is Saratchandra Chattopadhyay. Saratchandra wrote in times when India was under the British Rule. He did not write about the conditions in those times; however he did hold a mirror so to say to the society and its issues in a very subtle manner. For instance, Devdas is not just about a drunk and wasted lover. It goes beyond that. It speaks of feminism very early on through its two female protagonists – Paro and Chandramukhi. At the same time, the fictional value and element of the novel do not get ignored.
Penguin India has launched, “Classic Saratchandra – Volume 1” that features eight of his brilliant novels. From Biraj Bou to Swami, these novels explore a gamut of themes – from the relationship of a newlywed indifferent wife and her patient husband to a woman and her love for her husband despite misunderstandings that take place.
Saratchandra wrote his books with great sensitivity. When you read them you start noticing the underplayed emotional tones. His writing also sometimes was induced with a tinge of political awareness – for instance most of Srikanta is written with the angle of combining a family story with India’s then situation.
Saratchandra had an eye for detail and he used it to his advantage. The writing is in place and at times there is too much atmosphere, however that can be ignored. His works are definitely more than worth just one read. I would also like to mention that the translations by Malobika Chatterjee, Aruna Chakravarti, Sreejata Guha and Sunanda Krisnamurty is by far one of the excellent ones that I have read. At the end of it, I cannot wait for the second volume to be published.