This was one of those few books that I pick up every year to impress my mother 🙂 and then I gradually pick them up to read myself. I started reading this last weekend as we had to travel back to our home town for a family function, I actually picked it to check the public’s reaction on a very old, acclaimed and that too a Hindi book. And I must say not only the book blew my mind off but the way I got superb response from people upwards of 45 years + age, it was simply amazing. A South Indian uncle sitting right opposite our berth going from Pune to Ujjain on a pilgrimage trip spoke so much about the story with such passion (without giving out any spoilers as he realized I was midways into the book). He was delighted to say that I have an amazing taste in literature :), of-course I didn’t confess to him that I was doing it for my mother. Now after reading the book while travelling back to back for three days and wrapping the last 20 pages this morning after reaching home, I am totally speechless. As the period and the drama that this book covers is totally unbelievable. Written in the mid 70’s, based on a time period which is like a few months before of India’s independence and subsequent partition, the way story progresses for a poignantly open ending, it just felt like someone removed the rug below my feet.
My last read was “A Tale of Two Nights” based on Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1984) and Babri Masjid demolition of early 90’s which again spoke about Hindu Muslim relations and differences in great detail again in a heart touching story. But as if I didn’t have enough of it already, I got this one which tells exactly the same story which was happening 50 years prior to Babri Masjid episode. The religious divide which comes in picture at the drop of a hat between the three sects (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) time and again, earlier at one point of time they lived like brothers otherwise. And on top of that we have Britisher’s who were ruling us at that point of time, the dilemma that the Deputy Commissioner of the town faces with these three groups raring to kill each other in the name of religion and what not, was totally mind-blowing. The entire story is so smartly written, which almost never gives out the name of the place it all is happening as well as the time it is actually taking place. But the way things are going, I could do the math to timeline it and by almost the ending the Author decides to give out the names of the places 🙂 which again is something you need to read the book to experience it. Totally unpredictable I will say.
I just couldn’t believe how easily a Hindu will kill a Muslim just because a little political move by the top shots changes the equation. Even when they have lived in the same area for generations and pretty well know that they can never be enemies of each other neither will/should harm each in any circumstance. The way a human turns into an animal or for that matter even worse than an animal was simply shocking. Especially the way quite a few settle their own scores like killing the weaker ones as they couldn’t kill the stronger ones or raping the females they couldn’t lay their hands on otherwise, unbelievably inhuman and what toll it takes on the readers in-expectant mind. Again as I am never too ashamed to confess as it happens quite a few times with me, here too I had no idea what actually “Tamas” meant, till I finished the book this morning and called my mother to ask what it meant in the context of the book? she said only one word “Darkness”, Wow, Hats off to you Mr. Sahni, you just got a fan for life. How apt.
Unfortunately these days I do not read much of Hindi literature, all thanks to the availability in the stores I go book shopping and a little to blame myself that I always rate foreign writers higher than our own. Plus I believe no contemporary writer is writing in Hindi anymore they all are writing in English, further killing Hindi literature.
I know that my blabber makes no sense and does no justice to the terrific writing of Mr. Bhisham Sahni, having said that I will say that each one of us has to read this book and that too in Hindi, its original language (if you can) to get its gravity. Have you read Tamas or seen its TV adaptation or the critically acclaimed movie made by Govind Nihalani on it? Do let me know how you liked it and if you haven’t watched or read, I will say read you must first. You are totally going to love it.