An Attempt Got Lost

Sandeep Bandyopadhyay

The book Chhinnamuler Chhinnopatra, by Arunshankar Das, 2016, Janamuktikami Prakashani under review may be called a memoir and not memoirs because the author does not remain confined to his autobiographical account. He rather makes it abound in his personal observations on contemporary events, particularly corruption and other evils that beset the present day society. An autobiographical mood however informs his account because he sometimes refers to his association with participation in some important events of his times; for example, employees’ movement in his office.

Born in Sylhet in undivided Bengal in 1940, Arunshankar Das, now nearing eighty, looks back on the days he has left behind in his long, eventful life. He migrated to Silchar in Assam after partition, stayed in various parts of north-east India and finally settled in Calcutta (Kolkata) where he retired from service in 2000. His memoir thus covers the entire second half of the last century.

In that sense, the book could have been a very valuable document because he dwells on the most turbulent days of therecent history from war to famine, communal violence to partition , communist movement in post-colonial West Bengal, the Naxalite upsurge in the late 1960’s and so on. He has dealt with almost all the important events of those days. But lack of coherence has turned the book into a loose-knit account of events and his personal views.

The book dramatically begins with his waiting at the Dum Dum Airport for a flight to Bangladesh where he was going to revisit his native village in Sylhet. But he thoroughly disappoints readers when he goes on to describe the exploits of Netaji Subhaschandra Bose (after whom the Airport has now been renamed), keeps on lamenting how Bose has been neglected in post -Independent India. He does not stop at that. He goes on to describe the ancient glory of Bengal and then passes on to the politics of partition, the hypocrisy of the national leaders and finally the plight of Bengal in the wake of partition.

Meanwhile he fails to refrain himself from making some comments on the present state of cricket in West Bengal, its degeneration as a result of political intervention, the CPM -led Left Front Government’s bid to capture the CAB and so on and so forth. Curious or amusing as it may seem, neglected Subhas Bose suddenly reminds him of another neglected Bengali - Sourav Ganguly (PP 4-5).

This single instance is enough to give an idea of the kind of narrative-structure followed by the author. He swiftly jumps from one issue to another, describes an event in a pedantic manner and always expresses his personal opinion which is markedly judgemental. This mode of narration annoys the reader, distract his attention from an interesting episode and finally lands him in bitter disappointment. Another instance :
The author describes his childhood days, Durga Puja and the ritual animal sacrifice and then abruptly changes his mode to describe the USSR under Stalin and like a teacher tries to make the reader understand that Stalin was not as despotic as he is made out to be. In the process, he dwells at length on Stalin’s heroic role during the Second World War and ends the Chapter with the description of the murder of Trotsky. The cause, he refers to, is bunkum, to say the least (pp 11-16).

No theory of “stream of consciousness” would be able to justify or explain his mode of narration. The book contains some interesting episodes of the author’s early days, the rural life of an area in the then east Bengal. It could have been an interesting read; but pathetically, it fails to sustain the attention of the reader.

Besides many printing errors, there are some inadvertent factual errors too. The historic May Day was held at Chicago in 1886 and not in 1888(p123). Sanjoy Gandhi was killed in 1980, not during the Emergency which had been lifted in early 1977(p 223). Lenin died in 1924, not in 1925 (p 205).Finally, the book deserves to be properly edited.

Vol. 49, No.49, Jun 11 - 17, 2017