Category Archives: Eka

Read 7 of 2022. Qabar by K.R. Meera. Translated from the Malayalam by Nisha Susan.

Qabar by K.R. Meera

Title: Qabar
Author: K.R. Meera
Translated from the Malayalam by Nisha Susan
Publisher: Eka Books, Westland
ISBN: 9789391234515
Genre: Novella, Literary Fiction, Translated Fiction
Pages: 111
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Reading K.R. Meera’s writing is to let go of the thin line between reality and the imaginary, and to submit oneself to the power of her words. K.R. Meera’s writing isn’t easy. There are layers and multi-folds of emotions attached to it, each tying it all together, each capable of destroying the very tapestry she creates for the reader.

There were times while reading Qabar I was terrified, I was immersed in what she wanted me to see, and often found myself taking the place of the protagonist, Bhavana. I do not know how to talk about the plot of this book, but I shall try. Qabar is about a disputed piece of land, and in this dispute Bhavana, the judge of the case gets caught unknowingly. It is about her ancestor as well, who in some way or the other is related to the events that unfold. Qabar is about Bhavana’s child Advaith, who has ADHD and is trying to cope, after his father deserted them. Qabar is about Bhavana’s buried emotions, till she meets a petitioner and her life takes an unexpected turn – for the better or worse she doesn’t know yet. It is also about religion and the fences we create in its name.

K.R. Meera’s writing is nothing like I have read before. She surprises me by the power of her craft through every new book published. Her writing is bold, nonchalant, full of desire, and undertones of race, class, and provides no solutions. Her writing is empathetic and yet extremely visceral in nature. It is all over the place, and yet seems so grounded – it has the power to make you imagine – transport yourself to the world she creates and makes you stay there till you are done with it. Nisha Susan’s translation does more than enough justice to the plot – it did not read like a translation to begin with and when it did, I didn’t feel anything was missed out.

Qabar is a short novel, almost a novella, and yet says so much. The layers are umpteen and complex. From love to envy, to insecurities of a single mother, to understanding the nature of magic, it is a topsy-turvy ride of a read. A read  I so wish just didn’t stop. Qabar’s magic realism – its tone of all things that lay in suspension of belief is not only charming but fearsome and thrilling. K.R. Meera explores desire and the pangs of longing like no other contemporary Indian writer I can think of.  Qabar is a read that will have you gripped till you are done with it.

The Runaway Boy (Chandal Jibon Trilogy) by Manoranjan Byapari. Translated from the Bengali by V. Ramaswamy

The Runaway Boy by Manoranjan Byapari

Title: The Runaway Boy
Author: Manoranjan Byapari
Translated from the Bengali by V. Ramaswamy
Publisher: Eka
ISBN: 978-9389648850
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translations Pages: 370
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The Runaway Boy by Manoranjan Byapari is the first volume of a trilogy, titled, Chandal Jibon. A story of a boy told in three volumes as he makes his way through life.

Little Jibon’s story begins in a refugee camp in West Bengal, as his Dalit parents flee East Pakistan in search of a better life (during the partition of India and East Pakistan), and well because circumstances make them. They do not get treated well in the camp. The harsh reality of it all hits them hard.

In all of this as Jibon grows, he only has one dream: To flee this life of misery and strife. The idea that Byapari’s character’s name when translated is life says a lot which doesn’t need to be elucidated on. So, once he turns thirteen, Jibon runs away to Calcutta in search of a better tomorrow. The elusive better tomorrow that most people who aren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth are constantly aspiring for. All he wants is to work hard and bring back food for his siblings and his mother.

And then there is caste that plays such a big role in the book – the only one I guess when everything is determined by the caste of Jibon – the political that mingles with the personal, the inequalities that exist, the distribution of wealth and property that is absolutely unfair, and more than anything, the book holds a mirror to our society and the world we live in through Byapari’s unapologetic and razor-sharp writing.

The Runaway Boy is a semi-autobiographical book but somehow it doesn’t read like that, or maybe I didn’t bring that to fore while reading it. There is so much the book has to offer – a coming of age story, historical fiction, and in all of this, a story of a person’s life. It is extremely introspective, and yet provides such a holistic view of the world we inhabit. A must-read!