Thursday, October 08, 2009

At heaven's gate - Sunil Gangopadhyay

I have read this book years ago, when this was published in Bengali and was translated into my language. The book had impressed me immensely then, and I am left with the same feeling after reading the English translation of the same after all these years.

Sunil Gangopadhyay is one of the prominent living writers in India and is the current chairman of National In. I was told that he is known for his poetry in Bengal than his novels.

At heaven's gate revolves around three characters over one afternoon till the next day. Ranjan , young professional working in a prestigious company in Kolkata , and his beautiful wife Bhashmati ( or Sati as he calls her) are on their annual vacation in a remote country side village in Madhyapradesh. Caught in the rain in the open with no protection and difficult terrain in an unoccupied hill, they were rescued by a nomadic youth Prosenjit, staying in a makeshift tend among the poisonous snake that he catches and sells for living.

Forced to accept his offer to host them for the night, until the fury of the nature subsides and be able to cross the river, the couple spends their night in the hill. They had to accept the pyjama and banian that is offered, the food which is cooked by him and the cot and beddings. Indebted to the young man, Ranjan is determined to make amends, owing to his middle class prejudice. Prosenjit , however has other needs. Unable to take his eyes off the beautiful lady in the temporary dress, insufficient to conceal her beauty. Bhasmati, on her side has to fight the morals and prejudice of a middle class wife, and ensure the safety of their lives, rejecting the unwarranted advances made by Prosenjit. Prosenjit, who does not hide his attraction towards her both verbally and physically, goes to an extend of threatening her with the life of her husband, in order to subdue her to satisfy his lust.
The schemes, plots, and actions by the love deprived, isolated young man and the fights by the young lady to remain within the social and personal moral, while trying to make sure of her as well as her husbands safety, the obligation of the couple to the young man for his help , creates an environment which is very dramatic. As the narration moves from one angle to the other, through out the night and the early next day, each character trying to outlive the challenges in their own way, make this an interesting reading.

To me the book makes an excellent choice for a play ( living room and who is afraid of Virginia Wolf comes to my mind), albeit the rural settings. The conversations and the plots were written very dramatic. The underlying emotions, the untold truths of the relationships between husband and wife, the vulnerability of human at unfavourable conditions , the fight of moral and the fight of lust... there is enough for interpretation. Fantastic short novel, translated amicably by Sanchayita Chatterjee.
At Heaven's Gate ( Shorger Niche Manush )
Sunil Gangopadhyay ( translated from Bengali by Sanchayita Chatterjee)
Rupa Publications
158 Pages
Rs 195
Further Reads : Tribune India Review

1 comment:

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