Mahbub Mayukh Rishad
A hidden gem for the fiction lovers...
Arimatano, a Bengali novel by Mahbub Mayukh Rishad, takes the reader on a labyrinth where even after finishing the book, you don't get a path to go outside of it. To be honest, I couldn't. I binge-read the book and spent a night thinking about what happened to the protagonist. The writer plays well with the mind of the reader.
The moment you're going to make the whole fiction a story, the author ends it with a simple conversation like a sharp needle pierces a balloon. That's not the end of it, as the ending shakes your thousand-old long social wall called incest. Now, you must be wondering why I have started writing with
the discussion of ending? I'm writing a reader's response here, not a book review.
The fascinating features of this fiction are the narrator and the narratives. The narrator, a protagonist named Arimatano, projects the story in such a way that as if he's dead talking from his coffin, sometimes you might think he's hallucinating, sometimes you wonder is he really dead? In the beginning, in each chapter, the narratives alternatively reflect the childhood and youth days of the narrator like the flashes of memories. In the middle of the book, two lines, memories of childhood and youth days, of the narratives merge into one and go straight towards the pseudo-climax.
The setting of the fiction sets in two district cities. The author has kept the anonymity of the place, perhaps intentionally, by not using any names. If you grew up in Bangladesh, you could identify the areas quite well. Arimatano, a medical college student, speaks about his journeys throughout the book. Raised by his grandparents, he keeps creating mysteries about himself and his family from the beginning of this fiction. His birth is a mystery, and so are the family members he mentions. The author creates an alternative world, the realm of trees, where he carries Arimatano and the readers. Both of the stakeholders enjoy the journey but remain dubious. It's like asking the questions: does that happen? Can it happen?
As a reader, you might quickly reply 'no' to these questions, but as a character, Arimatano can't. One can undoubtedly locate magic realism in the book. It's blended beautifully with the narratives.
The book has a naked reality of students' politics when the protagonist depicts his medical college days. He joins the students' politics, what role he plays, where he deviates from the ideals and so on.
From the book's description, one can assume that the context is referring to the interim caretaker government of Bangladesh during 2006-08. At that time, how the political scenario of medical college worked could be explored in this piece. It talks about three political parties and their fight for power in ruling the college campus. The book got the genuine touch of real characters in this description. The hostels, hostel life, carelessness, friends, classes, love and loss, and politics have portrayed an exciting bubble for the readers.
In this part, people from different walks of life have come together under the same roof. The characters like Mrinjona, Arish, Mahbub, Mayukh, Rishad, Ibu, Bishnu, Unfreen, and others give views of their lives through different glimpses. One can get the stories of boys and how they're looking at the idea of love and girls; how they're relating with the idea of sex and love; how fantasy is playing a role where the boys have no real experiences of sex but only watching the porn.
I specifically could identify three limitations of the novel. First, the author invested so much love and energy in the protagonist that other characters remained unexplored. He could have delved more into other characters' lives to add a wholesome flavour to the narration.
Second, intentionally or unintentionally, the author presents a male perspective of the characters. When a reader is reading a book, it doesn't matter male or female author is writing the book. What does matter is the reflection of the writer? I mean the attitude and characterization somehow limit the writer with his experiences of being a male.
The female characters like Mrinjana or Unfreen could be dug more as characters and could flourish more in the story. Third, in making the protagonist a unique or isolated one, the author makes it inhumane or godly to some extent. For instance, Arimatano loves his grandparents and friends. He has his share of depression and indifferent attitude towards life, temporal lust for power, and kindness. The author somehow misses out, can be purposely, to mention anything about his sexual desire. I'm not saying it should be included. When I read the book, I found it natural to read something about the sexual life of the character as the character demands it. He's just in his early twenties and studying at college.
The novel has the potential to attract readers and to play with their minds. Language is very lucid and modern, in the sense of contemporariness. The author attempted to keep it precise, and he's successful in doing that. Undoubtedly, the author has proved his individuality and uniqueness in his writing style. So, if any of you are ready to shake your conscience, you don't twitch your eyebrows after hearing the word 'incest'; go through a journey with Arimatano.