Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This is not that Dawn by Yashpal

Title : This is not that Dawn
Author: Yashpal
Type: English translation of Jhoota Sach.
Publisher: Penguin books 
ISBN 978-0-143-10313-4
Pages :1119 
Price:479 (Flipkart)

"Jeevan ke rang" was one of the very few serials I used to love on Doordarshan and I remembered Yashpal from that serial.Most of the episodes were based on the short stories by him.He was considered as the Tolstoy of Hindi literature and probably Jhoota Sach was the most definitive amongst all.Written in 1958-1960 his work was translated in English in 2007.This work of his is the most profound work on the partition of India.He has written over 50 books of short stories , essays ,novels.He was the proponent of social reform and social protest and was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1970.

Summarizing thousand pages of a book is no easy task.The enormity of the book actually makes it so special. .It delves into the life of every character in minuscule details and deals with the political,social and cultural consequences of the partition.The best part is the balanced portrayal of the Hindu and Muslim story.Divided into two volumes, first in Lahore and the second  in India the book offers a complete picture of a historical event which has its repercussions till date.Reading the book makes me wonder what our ancestors had gone through and leaves a big question for humanity, not only the atrocities during the partition but also about a prejudice which cost millions of lives.

"An immense cloud of flies hovering over the heads of the refugees alighted on the convoy.The flies swarmed so thickly that one had to use both hands to ward them off,so as to avoid breathing them in.With them came the smell of death,a gagging,retching smell,as if their bodies continued to decay as they walked."

The book tells the story of two families but in the long run their story summarizes the lives of millions affected by partition.Our protagonist Tara and Jaidev live in the Bhola Pande's gali in Lahore.Jaidev marks the generation pre partition where the youth went to jail for freedom and took part in social protests and reforms.The life of Tara is a compassionate portrayal of the condition of women in the society then.Life was normal in the Bhola pande's gali where people considered that place to be their home.Life was normal until some prejudiced leaders decided to divide people on the basis of religion.This started chain of barbaric events  and savagery.People flee their homes,millions died and the women were the center point of belligerence.Not only did the demography change , in fact it was a life changing event for many.

The first part of the book deals more with the day to day life in two families.Socail status , money and society played an important part in their lives.It reflects how woman from time immemorial had to bow to social pressure and the discriminatory attitude of educated people.Apart from the day to day struggle in Jaidev's life there are stories of love, hate and infatuation.People living ordinary lives, making their ends meet had to leave everything behind for their lives but to in the process of saving their lives many lost a life they had.

A person's character is tested the most in times of tribulations.People were parted from their families and each  had to take a different course of action.Some fought hard and adjusted to the new life while others gave in.But the book made me thinking that how could a human being become so inhuman, what was it in them which made them so barbaric and why were the women treated so ruthlessly? What is it in us which makes us so strong to fight hunger and save our lives and how does one desperately end one's life?How does one feel to leave all everything and run for his life and especially how can one take the life of a neighbor out of hatred.Was it a war,or is a war like this?Who started all this and was the purpose sufficed? The book raises a lot of such questions and probably answers them in the stories of the character' life.

The second part of the book can be aptly called the rehabilitation story.It marks a totally new life for many.It marks the beginning of a free India which had to deal with millions of refugees, the very first test of the worthiness of  its leaders.It throws more light into the socio-economic condition of the society and unemployment.But amongst all this many families are re united, while some never go into their pasts for their good.The book talks about Congress party,Mahatma Gandhi and discusses the course of action taken by the leaders of free India. Amidst  the good it talks about the advent of political corruption.

Yashpal speaks a lot about the lives of woman in that era.The atrocities in the partition , the restrictions imposed by the family members,their independence has been dealt in great detail.This book depicts that how institutions of morality are sacrificed at the cost of greed and love survives in the worst of conditions,how one changes his character to gain undue advantage.

Born almost 40 years after Independence this epic novel leaves me in awe and amidst thoughts.Do read this wonderful masterpiece on a topic which will stay in our lives for generations to come.  

Rating :4/5


Shilpa said...

The first paragraph transported me back to my childhood too...remember the simple yet soulful serials on Doordarshan? :)

Priya said...

Wow, this sounds wonderful; though I've never watched this tv series. Actually, I'm in the whole 'regional literature' phase (starting with my own mother tongue, which is Marathi) I also kind of need to improve my Hindi reading "skills", so I might as well try to read this in its original.

Abhinav said...

@Shilpa :Truly

@Priya : If i get time to reread this I would do it in Hindi.