There is literature for casual reading, for a niche audience consisting of academics, scholars, intellectuals, analysts and visionaries and then there is literature for those readers who are stirred by the writing to such an extent that they rise up to some workable and achievable action. However, the literature in translation offers an untarnished pleasure to the readers if the essence after translation has been retained similar to the ethos of the original work. Samik Bandopadhyay’s superlative translation of the classic literary work, Mother of 1084 originally written in Bengali by the late Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and activist, Mahasweta Devi precisely spins that yarn.
‘Mother of 1084’ (Hazaar Churashir Ma), screams of the pain and agony that is silently borne by the protagonist Sujata Chatterjee, mother of the murdered boy, Brati whose identity is merely reduced to a number (1084) in the morgue of 1970s Calcutta. It was an era that heralded what was called the Decade of Liberation. Liberation from the social atrocities, class distinctions, economic upheavals, political unrest. Liberation from Life- In a way, isn’t each one of us just a number at the end of the day? Irrespective of our nationalities, religion, caste, creed, sect, gender or political affiliations, each one of us is actually recognized by a number that defines us at all walks of life. We are just a candidate number, centre number, PAN number, Aadhar number, phone number, passport number and so on and so forth. Funnily, even after death all that one is reduced to be a number running many digits. And amidst all these games of numbers, when you resolve to get the math right and set the complex problem a tremble with the correct formula, you realise the gross error in the system.
That same ‘system’ which has the tremendous ‘capacity to contaminate even a child in the womb’ has its advocates marauding the body of the society under the garb of civilization and aristocracy who are determined to change the narrative of the adage, ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ Mahasweta Devi’s brilliant narratorial voice is cushioned in a dystopian Calcutta against the backdrop of the climactic Naxalite Movement (a phase that has trampled the face of this city in the past and is still licking its way to spell doom) where a young man cannot move freely and safely from one precinct to the other. on the 96th birth anniversary of the Padma Shri and Padma Vibhushan writer, there are numerous Bratis who still yearn for a world where the needy may be genuinely looked after, where the labourers and marginalized sections of the society will be uplifted without vested interests, where calculated assassinations will not be carried out brutally against the lumpen proletariats, where the children and women are provided with the absolute
security and where every citizen’s safety and security is addressed with equal war footing just like the security breach of the prime minister of any nation that becomes a news headline for days to come. Do read the book to drown yourself to find more into the literary culture of our country.