Sunday, March 26, 2006

Lajja by Taslima Nasreen

I was born to sing these sorrows
to expose the destructive beasts...
I stir up the grief of my people,
I water their subterranean hopes,

for to what purpose my songs,
the natural gift of beauty and words,
if it does not serve my people
to struggle and walk with me?

–Pablo Neruda, I Come From the South

The historical context of the novel Lajja (Shame) by Taslima Nasreen is the demolition on 6th December 1992 of the 16th century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, U.P., India, and its devastating fallout in Bangladesh where, in reputed vengeance, temples were destroyed and the (minority) Hindus overnight became victims of insensitive and barbaric violence at the hands of Muslim ruffians on prowl.

The stage is set in Bangladesh and the story revolves around an extremely patriotic Hindu family. Suranjan a profligate middle-aged man with little or no accomplishment in his life to boast about is the son of a doctor (Sudhamoy) with strong national values. Sudhamoy’s past tells the story of his support for his clan during the national movement and of his work for the cause of the nation. In turn people whom he considered his own rewarded him by mutilating his genitals. Despite all this he strongly believes that Bangladesh is his home and refuses to move to Calcutta (India) to seek refuge like lakhs of others. Suranjan also loves his motherland just like his father despite being deprived of equal opportunities due to his religious background. Kiranmoyee, Sudhamoy’s wife is depicted as a loveable character who stands by her husband and son in the times of all adversities killing her own personal desires and wishes in the process. Maya, Sudhamoy’s daughter is flustered with complaints, as her family wants to live in the same country even at times of peril like this one. Taslima in her tale buttresses her fiction with facts. Her attempt in this book is not to malign any religion, it is an earnest beseech to the human race to embrace humanity and shun fanatism. The story is gripping and extremely poignant.

Two essential points highlighted
Renaming Lalmohan Poddar road as Abdul Karim Gaznavi Street, Nari Shiksha Mandir as Shere Bangla balika Bidyalaya is just two of the many examples of similar kinds. On the surface the renaming may appear to be mere sorting but when one digs deep into the matter, one realizes that this is an attempt to erase the very existence/feeling of existence of a certain community (usually the minority) from the society.

Rape is infringement of a woman and her body and tries to establish that a woman is subordinate to a man. A woman is looked down upon as a property and not as another human. Thus a man can command over her and can do whatever he so pleases to with this property. Maya’s abduction in the latter part of the story clearly tries to signify a possible gang rape. All those examples of alleged instances of raping women in various parts of the country also help raise the gender disparity issue.

My take on the book
Literary joie de vivre, arty language, analogies are characteristics that are rather absent in the book. Yes, you must not read this book if you are looking out for any of these. But, some books acquire over time a piquant distinction and abiding relevance in human affairs. Lajja is among them, at least in so far as the sub-continent is concerned. It remains influential and remarkable.
Lajja totally changed the life of the author forever. The book was first banned in Bangladesh. A fatwa was announced by the Muslim clerics to kill Taslima Nasreen and an award was announced for the one who would carry out such an activity.
Taslima has taken on all these monsters single-handedly. She has pierced into their primitive egos and their monstrous ignorance, as she tears to pieces their age-old immoralities and habitual hypocrisies. There might have been several other Taslimas in the making, conscientious and capable, perhaps but who remained suppressed because of the intimidating example of her travails as a woman, as a writer, as a nonconformist, as an independent thinker. She certainly opened the doors and windows for others to breathe the fresh air of freedom of thought and expression and venture forth to get rid of the choking murk of merciless and enslaving superstitions. All in all, a great book!!

Wrap up
Should we expect Dhaka to arrest and punish the goons and gangsters terrorizing the Hindus? “The creator is always indulgent to its creatures.” As in Bangladesh, so in India. Do we expect the BJP-led National Demolition Alliance to arrest and punish the Hindu anti-socials guilty of rape, rapine, arson, assassination that they commit with impunity against the Christians and Muslims? Certainly, not. Because they have been brainwashed and convinced that their crimes constitute "cultural nationalism" and real secularism, that these make them robust and patriotic. These bloody and tribal savageries have made them more and pure Hindus.

As an Indian, I feel, we belong to a country where Religion is politicized, politics is criminalized and crimes are nationalized. This is indeed a shame and this book talks rather boldly about all this and much much more.........
It is quintessential for each one of us to protest against and show resistance to inhuman injustice and feral blood lust. The Bangladesh government, denied all the atrocities happening there, and called evidence and reports detailing these alleged crimes against humanity as exaggerated and fabricated. This portrays the routine and reflexive response of the complicit administrations of countries in the subcontinent. It is nothing new to us Indians. There is a sense of deja vu in the verbal pall of inanity that the states ineffectively but aggressively seek to spread over their crimes. This is the triteness Indians regularly hear in clemency of the Saffronite criminals belonging to the Hindu fundamentalist parties.
Lajja is an exposition of true and real life hatred that runs in veins and arteries of the fanatics and the story according to me, would not have been any different had it been staged in a country like ours or for that matter even in Pakistan.

“Let another name for secularism be Humanism” – Taslima Nasreen

(PS: Blogging will be sporadic for sometime)


Anonymous nishu said...

Bole toh ekdum jhakaas likha hai maamu. Lajja truely rocks
Kudos to u! Muaaaah!

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Vicky said...

I didnt like the facts that she mentions in between. I felt they were out of place. Otherwise the book is really good. Aur ye review likhne ke liye ek pappi doonga. Jaldi office aaja.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous vicky said...

:-) :-) kidding. Hum log bohot velle hai idhar. Kamse kam tujhse gaane gawaate yaar, tu aaja. Time pass ho jataa.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous meghna said...

My favourite part in the book was her decription of Suranjan's seeming fear about getting killed and also the last chapter. What's yours? Its a great book and one that has found a permanent place in my book shelf.

12:09 AM  
Blogger the Monk said...

haven't read it yet...nice review, though...

7:38 AM  
Blogger Bhupi said...

U read and write a lot.....Gosh!!! I can't do either of them that much

9:20 PM  
Blogger Surya Ragunaathan said...

@ Nishu - Thank you very much :-)

@ Vicky - yeah, the facts thing many people didnt like. One of my other friends also said its disturbing. Aur tu office main time pass karna, woh pink waali toh hai na :-) aur haan, nishu se better company toh tujhe mil hi nahi sakta, hai na :-)

@ Meghna - hmm....I love the book, abhi fav part bataana thoda mushkil hai. But, fir bhi I liked the last two chapters the most starting with the whore episode till the end when they migrate....and also loved the part where Suranjan sees the cat and ponders that the cat doesnt belong to any religion, I wish I was a cat, etc. beautiful!!

@ The monk - Thank you! Thank you!

@ Bhupi - I read a lot and write very less, I think. Thanks for your valuable comment

12:13 PM  
Blogger loveunlimited said...

one of the nicest book reviews readafter a long time...i loved the sentence framedwith referenceto India,about religion being politicized and soon........

11:06 AM  
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10:03 PM  

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