Hmmm so I am the Hungry Reader. The one who reads. The one who is constantly reading or wanting to read constantly. This blog is all about the books I have read, the ones that I am reading and gems that I plan to read in the future or whenever it arrives.
Once in a while you read something that shakes your core. It jolts you out of the mundane existence and makes you question everything and everyone around you. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever felt so compelled by art? Nayyirah Waheed’s poetry did that to me. It made me want to drop everything, leave everything behind and go and find myself. It had that kind of an impact. I am this close to perhaps even doing that.
I don’t know why it felt the way it did, but I honestly believe that if any work of art can drive you to this point or to tears (which also happened by the way) then it is an indication that you wake up, smell the coffee and do something about what is going on – in your life and also to perhaps make a better change in someone else’s life as well.
“salt” is a collection of poems by Waheed on the condition of being black, feeling alienated, how the heart is empty and bereft, how does one heal after all, and of various other matters of the heart and soul. Each poem comes with a word at the bottom – the poem defines the word – gives it meaning and that is the format of this collection.
I don’t know what more to say about this magnificent collection of poems. I have no words, honestly. I don’t even know if I would be doing the book any justice at all by talking about it. “salt” is the kind of collection of poems that will rip your heart out, toss it a little, turn it a bit, throw it far away, make you realize what you have lost, make you fetch it, repair it and let it heal. A stunning collection of poems.
I had not read a single book by Premchand (or Munshi Premchand, as he was known) till I read Rangbhoomi. I had read a one-off story in school (since we had a story by him as a part of the syllabus) and that was that. Nothing more than that as he never sparked my interest when it came to either Basha Literature or the fact that I found his works too depressing and rustic. I was at a stage in my life when probably the world literature influences were heavier than the Indian ones. Till lately, my interest varied and I wanted to read something by him. I have read a lot of Indian Literature; however we belong to the generation sadly of translations and must make do with them. Here, I would like to give full-credit to the translator of this work, Manju Jain for providing us with this gem of a work.
Translating a work is not easy. There are times when maybe you miss out on the finer details that the original work intended to communicate to its readers. However, thankfully so that is not the case with this translation, owing to the fact that the translator is also an Indian. Rangbhoomi as a novel is complex – it has many layers to it which take time to unfold and come to the surface. The title itself means, “The arena of life” – which is so apt to the entire book. It is life playing itself in its arena and in many shapes, forms and emotions.
At over 700 pages, Rangbhoomi is a big book and yet it satisfies the reader in ways one cannot even begin to fathom. The plot of the book is simple as the case is in most Premchand’s works: Oppression of the working classes, namely in Rural India, which would mean – the farmers. We encounter the blind Surdas and his chronicle from life to death and the hardships he suffers on the account of his place in the society – that of a farmer.
Munshiji has been the hallmark of Indian Literature. Right from Godan (The Gift of a Cow) to the short story Kafan (Shroud), his penmanship skills have been brilliant and long-lasting in the memory of his readers. The narrative of Premchand is biting – it makes you think and wonder about the caste system that still exists in our country in hamlets and villages. May be a change will come someday. It ought to.