Dibanishi: A peep into pastoral life of Bengal
Quite often, the mundane life in literature reflects a closer narrative of reality and Dibanishi, a Bengali fiction of Abdullah Al Imran, published in 2017, is such a book that weaves the rural ordinary life of the country. The uniqueness of this novel lies in the blend of Manasamangala myth and fakir, principally eastern sufism, philosophy of life.
While reading this fiction, it brought back my memories of reading Hajar Bochor Dhore, by Zahir Raihan. The way Zahir Raihan's Hajar Bochor Dhore flew me to the rural life of '50s 0r '60s, in the same way Imran's Dibanishi took me to a journey of a village life of '80s or '90s, perhaps. I have thoroughly enjoyed my reading of this fiction and my journeys with the lives of characters are worth mentioning.
The story is set on a village Chanpura, located by the river Sugandha. It depicts the life of rustic people and the author left no stone unturned to vividly present the scenario of life as it is. The book included the issues like village politics, insecurity of the minorities, river erosion, myths and religious beliefs.
Rather than focusing on one narrative the book has incorporated mini-narratives, such as the life of Ashwab Talukder, Maimuna, Noori, Rabeya, Khabir Uddin. Ashwab Talukder, one of the few rich persons of the village, also an opposition person of the local UP chairman, purchases the property of Krishna, who moved to India. While leaving, Krishna requests to Talukder not to destroy the temple of Manasa, the Hindu folk goddess of snakes, because of its historical legacy. As many magical stories are there regarding 'the golden vessel' hidden under the temple, the Talukder, accompanied by his sons, couldn't resist the temptation to discover the golden vessel and dug under the Manasa temple.
The incident brings a tragedy to the life of Talukder by the sudden death of his sons' and it spread in the village that goddess Manasa is angry as her temple is destroyed and her curse has killed the two sons of Talukder. Not only that Manasa will destroy the whole clan of Talukder, it's being rumoured.
On the other hand, the book narrates the story of Maimuna, the youngest daughter of Fakir Khabir Uddin, mother of two sons. She travels to her parents' home Chanpura to see her mother's dead body. On the way of her travel, she contemplates about her memories with mother and nostalgia kept her enchanted. Her pathos of losing mother, love for mother, and reminiscences of mother's memories are bound to touch the minds of the reader as the writer has knitted the description so intensely. Here, the writer has incorporated magic realism with the connection of Maimuna and her deceased mother. Moreover, Maimuna's intellectual ploy leads her to be a chief of the Fakir family, the family which never acknowledges the rights of women.
Noori, a young girl, another character of the book, reads in college who has sacrificed her love due to social pressure of her father and the society. In young age, she lost her mother and took the responsibilities of all household chores and along with it continued her study. The girl who takes the decisions of whole family regarding household matters couldn't take the decision of marrying her lover rather is forced to marry another guy.
Another character Rabeya, a middle-aged woman, is the true example of women empowerment. Poverty, her lethargic husband's reluctant attitude towards life, deprivation from the land property of her husband and many more battles she fought to run the family. Her pragmatic actions of life made her bold and strong.
Afterwards, the book projects light on traditional culture of our village life. The life where Orash festivals are organised by the Fakir family, worships are organised to calm down the angry Manasa, songs are sung by the fakirs on the occasion of uniting with God. The book also portraits people whose lives are affected by the river erosion.
As a reader, I've got some limitations of the author in the development of characters. For example, Ashwab Talukder is shown as a rational person from the beginning, not only that his characteristics reflect the qualities of educated person, but the writer didn't give any clue about his education and also characterizes him as a mere shop owner of the village. Moreover, in the end of the novel, the author reveals a realisation of the life of Talukder where he (Talukder) quotes, "Humanity is the greatest religion of earth. All religions talk about the good wishes and betterment of the humankind along with peaceful life. To keep peace in the society there is no alternative of respecting all religions." This quote reflects the mouth-words of the writer not the character Ashwab Talukder.
I found the character of Maimuna is unconvincing in the role of a mother. Throughout the whole novel her sheer love of mother expressed, however, she is also a mother of two sons whom he left and in the book her motherly love for sons is not expressed anywhere. The character who is deeply in love with mother and she herself is not giving motherly love to her sons, isn't it contradictory?
And as a reader, I got flaw in the characterization of Rabeya. When for the first time she is introduced in the book, we see, she is the victim of domestic violence, she pleads to her husband, by holding his legs, not to go out at night. Apart from this beginning scene, she is the empowered woman who is running the family. The lady who is shown as bold and strong in the whole novel, how can she be the victim of domestic violence? It raises questions in my mind!
Apart from the limitations, the novel has potential narratives to give the readers pleasure of reading and contemplative issues. The spontaneity of language has given me the flow to voyage with the pages of this novel!