Life and Political Reality: Two Novellas - Shahidul Zahir | Translators: V Ramaswamy & Shahroza Nahrin

Edition Details:
Paperback | Page Count: 192 | Publisher: Harper Collins India

Book Link: Amazon

'Life and Political Reality' is a collection of two novellas  viz Life and Political Reality and Abu Ibrahim’s Death by Bangladeshi author Shahidul Zahir. The novellas have been in translated from Bengali into English by V Ramaswamy and Shahroza Nahrin.

The first novella of the collection is 'Life and Political Reality'. There is a saying in hindi that Ganda hai par dhanda hai ye meaning it’s dirty but it’s business. The writer has shown here how politics is such and how in the end it doesn’t matter to politicans that what their or other politician's actions have done to common people. They just see their profit and if they are getting it from their enemy then they would have no qualms in sleeping with them. It also show how powerful can mould truth to suit their needs.  

It’s 1985 and Abdul Mojid is a young man now. It’s been 14 years since Bangladesh got it’s freedom. In these fourteen years Abdul Mojid has been living in Lakshmi Bazaar’s Shyama Prasad Chowdhury’s Lane but now something has changed in him.

The story starts with Abdul Mojid’s slipper which breaks and then goes on to show the reader who Abdul Mojid really is and what happened in Shayama Prasad Chowdhury’s lane in 1971. 

It’s been 14 years since Bangladesh has gained his independence but the wounds that Abdul Mojid and his neighbours had got are still sore and so when something happens Abdul is reminded of the past.
The writer slowly slowly reveals the incidents of Abdul Mojid's past and show us how they are connected with his present. This keeps the reader glued to it. We want to know more about Abdul Mojid and what had happend to him and people near him during this time.

Abdul Mojid is a common man and through his and people like his tragedy we see how common man is the one who always loses in Politics.

The fight for liberation of Bangladesh was a bloody one and people suffered a lot in it. The author has managed to show that suffering here by focusing on a neighborhood. We have characters here who had lost their sons, their lovers, their sons and daughters. We have people here who didn’t have any qualms about sacrificing their neighbours because of their political ambitions and we have those same people just switching sides and behaving as if nothing has happened. We have people using religion as tool to subjugate people. 

Although the story is set in Bangladesh but i think every common man would connect to it as these things are still happening in one form or other. 

The protagonist of this story is not a hero. He’s just a simple man who want to live his life and make sure his family is not harmed in any way but has seen getting his family harmed. He has no fancy notions about himself. If he had any during his childhood they had been destoryed by the brutal reality of the life and thus he takes the best decision he could under such circumstances. 

Life and Political reality is a heart touching story that show what life really is and how it's starkly different from political reality. 

The second novella of the collection is Abu Ibrahim’s Death. The story like the previous novella in the collection begins with an incident in the present and then moves into past and shows the reader how that incident came to be. The incident here is Abu Ibrahim's death. 

When we are young we are so full of ideals and we want to change the world but as we grow old we understand our capablities and most of us put our ideals aside and then just keep doing what the people before us were doing. Most people are satisfied with it but there are few who still feel that they shouldn't have done it. Abu Ibrahim is one such guy. 

Abu Ibrahim is goverment servant.  He once may have harboured feelings of idealism and revolution but he feels that he could never do anything that could be said idealistic or revolutionary. He has lost in love and it seems has still not forgotten it.

 Now Abu Ibrahim is dead and we are told his story and how his death came to be. The story is told entirely in backflashes and we are shown parts of Abu Ibrahim’s life before he met his end. 

The novella begins with a quote which says that  A man dies only once. The death maybe as weighty as  Mount tai or it may be lighter than  a goose feather menaing that a man’s death may be very significant or it may be very insignificant. After it the author says that Abu Ibrahim’s death was more lighter than a goosefeather meaning it was much more insignificant. But was it really?

We see Abu Ibrahim as a person here and the author has managed to show his inner turmoil. He represents many of those people who want to change the world but couldn't and still feel bad about it. The story also shows that life often throws choices in front of you and you can then decide what's important for you. Abu is thrown very tempting choices and what he does with them make him what he is. 

Although, the story is about Abu Ibrahim but there is his friend Siddiq Hossain. Siddiq Hossain is a common guy. He is not as idealistic as Abu and it seems that make him much more happy because he's not burdened by his unfulfilled expectations of himself. His is the character that i really liked because although he has no big notions about himself he is still capable of doing acts which Abu isn't most of the time and thus surprises Abu.  And it also shows that one doesn't have to take himself too seriously for loving someone, for being humane and making world a better place than what it was before.  

Sometimes idealistic people forget this. They are so focussed on big things that they forget sometimes doing a thousand little things can be much more significant than doing a big thing. 

As the story ends we get to see how Abu died and while reading this i could remember Kabir's line 'Pani Kera Budbuda, As Manas Ki Jaat' meaning we humans are like bubbles of water and we don't know when we'll burst (die). Although, what makes us different from water bubbles is that our bursting may shatter lives of people around us unlike the other bubbles and this also what we see in the novella. The other thought that came to my mind i reached the end was about Abu's mental state during the time he dies. Was he happy during this time?  He may have been because atleast he got to do what he wanted ie to stand for his ideals. May be that was the only good thing in this tragedy as there are people who die before getting such an opportunity. 

I enjoyed reading this collection of novellas and would try to read more works by this author.

Book Link: Amazon

 I'm participating in Blogchatter's #TBRChallenge

Note: I got this review copy from Blogchatter via their book review program in lieu of my honest take on it. 

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