The Dogs Declared War


There is no place for street dogs in a modern city. One must collect them and systematically eliminate them without hurting public sentiments. One may propose methods used in the holocaust, or simple poisoning in the night. But then, what happens when the dogs, utterly desperate, choose to leave the city on their own accord? This short wonder of a novella is far superior and more mature than Nabarun’s more popular works (like Kangal Malsat) in terms of subtlety and depiction of human brutality.

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Cover of the First Edition

It questions the much promoted slogan ‘Safe drive. Save life.’ Whose life to be exact? The crows, the dogs and cats — are they ever a part of the design of the human society? Once the author said in an interview, ‘Like I have the right to live in the city, a mosquito also has a right to bite me.’ From this non-anthropological view, the story forms its basic outline. Some critics compare the dogs with Naxalites whom the state chased and picked up like dogs and killed brutally. But I think, the idea is broader and scarier when applied to the helpless classes of the society.

Lubdhak is the Bengali name of the constellation Canis Major or The Greater Dog. In the novella, it acts as a compass for the helpless dogs. They had to leave the city. Lyka and other famous characters also appear as shadowy ghosts. They talk, they show ways, they predict that an asteroid is en route to destroy the city Kolkata like many such events in the past. That’s why the dogs must leave.

The sarcastic narrative, at times, accompanied by short poems, often goes quite experimental presenting a chapter in form of a bullet points and counterpoints. Sometimes, the narrative shifts from the third person to first person narratives of the animals. The continuously shifting voices give the novella a sense of urgency, a collective cry.

Like Khelna Nagar (Toy City), this one also is a dystopian work and can be termed as one of the major literary achievement in Bengali literature.

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Before the Hanging


In continuation of the series “To Talk About Bangla Books”, this is the second one.

Jagari (The Vigil) by Satinath Bhaduri

Today, I shall talk about a book that has introduced me to modernist Bangla novels. First published in 1946, it’s a commendable effort from the writer to write a difficult novel, such as this, in breathless stream of consciousness narrative.

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The complete book is divided into four parts and spans only a few hours. The family (father, mother and two brothers, Nilu and Bilu) was engaged in Indian politics with the Congress National Party i.e. Gandhiji’s Quit India Movement. For this reason Bilu and his parents were arrested. Bilu was sentenced to death for sabotaging government assets. Nilu became the witness against his elder brother, thus betraying his family, solely for his own political ideals.

Hence just few hours before the hanging, each character’s thought process is depicted with scientific precession  and thus we have four chapters for four characters.

Name of the chapters:
1. Cell for Death-sentenced- Bilu.
2. First Division Cell- Father
3. Women’s Cell- Mother
4. Jail Gate- Nilu

The fractured narrative, trailing off to old memories and coming back to current state several times within even a small paragraph has reminded me of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. But, I don’t want to compare the quality or techniques of these two books, for both are different and have their unique essences (Actually, I have found this one a lot more enjoyable and relatable, perhaps because it is written in my mother tongue).

Lastly, I want to say this that internal monologue in Bengali seemed natural to me than in English and without this book, I would never have known that Bengali, at times can sound so sweet and ear-pleasing upon employing stream of consciousness narrative.

To give you a small glimpse of the narrative, I am translating a part from chapter 3.

Everyone is sitting around me silently in the dark ─now if even a needle drops, the sound can be heard. Only the hand-fan is making a continuous humming… A beetle is flying. Sounding whirr, whirr…! It drops down with a ‘thak’. It rises again, flies, again bangs onto something and drops. Haven’t flown till now, not yet; still not yet. Now when it’ll fly, I’ll count one, two, three till ten. If it drops down before I reach ten, every way of saving Bilu will become impossible. And if I can complete my count before the insect drops, then I am sure, God will somehow save my Bilu. Have to count quickly; as quickly as possible for me. It flies now ─one, two, three, four, five, six, seven─ damn! It has dropped down. What have you done, O Almighty!