Refugees in their own land
no one leaves home until home is
sweaty voice in ear
run away from me now
I don’t know what I’ve become
but I know that anywhere
Is safer than here
Displacement of people from one place to another results in complicated individual and family experience, for those who leave, those who are left behind, and those who open their homes and hearts to welcome them.
Unfortunately, people who flee from dangerous situations carry with them the burden of distress and misfortune; by sacrificing their cultural identity in a bid to survive.
They try to settle down in new environment; adopting consciously or unconsciously the principles of assimilation and culturalism. The tormented drives, experiences, and outcome make them miserable, and in the process they become critical and irritable; angry souls for the rest of their lives.
Sandeep Raina has survived the shock of displacement gracefully; making his book ‘a bit of everything’ an engrossing story about the real events woven tactfully in a fictional peak, he proves successful as a hopeful writer.
His real-life revelations are not explosive, they do not electrify emotions but rather compel introspection; his storytelling talent is embedded with empathy; least bothered about playing blame games, he has no desire to exploit his victimhood.
His black and white memories do haunt him every now and then but creating his own style as an appropriate sensitive writer, he avoids building a ghost- house for an internally hurt person to live in.
The book is about a college professor, Rahul, who is caught in circumstances that force him to leave his home and look for a better and safer life outside his state, making him a refugee in his own country.
His resilience to conflict and violence is remarkable for he carries fewer material assets than emotional baggage. Keeping the son of soil alive, and giving bent to his emotions through his extremely powerful character, he writes:
‘Refugees run. But he couldn’t. Something dead and human landed on his chest, knocking him down. And something bitter, an old hurt, rose inside him and trickled into his mouth. He screamed silently----
‘Run, someone shouted.’----
Leaving in distress the house made with hardships, dedication and love, Rahul, the hero exerts a command to sugarcoat and suppress his feeling of revenge and revolt due to his nobility and unquestionable love for his estranged people. He wants to tame them, and educate them all.
‘Firoze passed his BA in the first division.’
‘He would help him prepare for his MA. They would read Macbeth, Hamlet and all of Shakespeare together! They would read Chaucer, Wordsworth, Milton, Eliot and so many other poets. They would read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Dicken and Austen…..He would teach him everything he knew.’
The novel is a cocktail of fantasy with realism, switching off between different time periods and events without blocking the periods, Sandeep keeps the situation fluid through present and past. A reader may feel that the author is creating separate chunks with his titles but feels free and comfortable to dip in the past any moment or come back to present with ease within those titles.
‘The train to Salzburg swept past the German countryside, green fields and blue skies flashing past the window. Rahul’s memories swayed along with the train’s gentle rocking--- Varmull, Germany, Varmull again.”
“Rahul and Doora had never gone anywhere for a holiday. He was convinced that if they could not relax in Haseen House------overlooking green fields, the quiet Jhelum and the snowy Peer Mountain ----they could not relax anywhere.’
Raina’s storytelling technique reminds a reader of Arundhati Roy’s style of writing, as for as his characterisation is concerned. Arundhati’s fantastic art of creating characters out of personalities is brilliant. Some of Sandeep’s characters like Doora, Ragnee, Mustafa, Firoze, Manzoor, and Asha Dhar are strong enough and caste impacts like Anjum, Biplab Dasgupta, Tilo, and Major Amrik Singh in Arundhati’s Roy’s ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’. All other characters in ‘a bit of everything’ are slightly undernourished and prove less graphic and feebler. The writer could consolidate minor characters or eliminate a few to make it easy for the reader to remember and relate; it also needed a little condensation to maintain the grip and interest.
In a literary frame, ‘a bit of everything’, is a splendid addition to the volumes of books written on Kashmir. Sandeep Raina is highly sensitive while he tries to balance events and tragedies of the history of his land; he seems ruthless in dealing with fictitious people irrespective of their religion or caste; fearlessly he writes:
‘Mustafa was standing next to him. He, too, wore a white namaz cap with a black –and-white keffiyeh thrown around his neck. The story weaver. The graveyard protestor. The rusticated backbencher. The divider of Varmullis.’
Talking about the miseries resulting from flying bullets, he continues:
Manzoor lifted his pheran------------The playback singer’s deep, dismal notes sounded faint against the deafening gunshots from the Kalashnikov.’
Raina is as honest as the desert sunset in revealing events in their real perspective. He is bold and blunt.
‘The saffron heads were blocking hundreds of vehicles. They seemed to be protesting ----------Someone shouted from a loudspeaker, Kashmir is a peeth. It is our Hindu heritage -----It is Hindu teerth, a religious destination.’
Sandeep’s ‘a bit of every thing’ is worth a read and more; pathetically interesting, a landmark in the conflict literature written on Kashmir, it is perhaps the first of its kind; a truthful attempt by the author in joining people of his land together rather than tearing them apart.
Chashm losam vuchhan vath hai Yiyam nat hai, maras pan
A bit of every thing
Westland Publications Private Limited.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.