Title: Chander and Sudha; Author: Dharamvir Bharati translated by Poom Saxe; Publisher: Penguin Viking
It is almost impossible to imagine a 23-year-old man way back in 1949 thought of cultural symmetry in marriage and envisioned a progressive India where the caste system will break down and inter-caste marriages will flourish. He also raised questions about the association of sex and marriage through a grieved and confused protagonist whose conflicted persolity is a story of many among us.
This was the magic iconic Hindi writer Dharamvir Bharati wove in his timeless love story “ Guho Ka Devta” which, for the first time is translated into English, and rrates the tale of the platonic love between the protagonists - Chander and Sudha.
To surmise it in one line: it is a usual love story with a tragic ending. But what makes it unusual is the author’s ability to turn things around by building tension through situations that invariably affect the actions of its characters, who are forced to make decisions that are beyond their control.
However, this remote-control movement highlights the helplessness of many relationships whose fate is hinged on societal approval and how many lives meet catastrophic endings because they have to abide by the rules laid down by society.
The recipient of the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, cleverly and wisely plays around the theme of “marriage culture” and how in those times it meant that a daughter would be at the mercy of her in-laws even if she has to meet her family; it focusses on the gging attitude of a single-mother who constantly abuses her only girl-child, fearing she might take an unwarranted step in the absence of a father-figure from their life; how situations change a father’s view about inter-caste marriage and a continuous battle between the mind, body and soul to fit into social norms.
The playful friendship between Chander and Sudha is devoid of any sexual attraction, yet one can read between the lines and see the dymic chemistry they share as a couple - who couldn’t be together. But the choice was in their hands to break free from the norms, but the intention of the author was to highlight how a man who has all the great qualities can ruin his own life by opting for sacrifice at his own will. “You have to place yourself in another time because if you have to see how they are behaving in 2015 then it is very difficult to understand their turmoil,” she said. She also pointed out that the caste system is yet to become irrelevant, even though the author wished it away way back in 1949. “That is the irony, isn’t it? We are still battling what we were fighting decades back,” she said. (IANS)