Ei Kahinibor: Stories of Life, loss and longing

BOOK REVIEW

PARVIN SULTANA

Dhanabindu Sharma’s second collection of short stories Ei Kahinibor comprises of 13 stories. Sharma settled in Halakura of Dhubri district. His short stories with its varied themes introduce the reader to the people, culture of western Assam. His stories try to reflect on social issues – be it child marriage, patriarchy, ethnic violence or the nostalgia that one feels towards the latter part of one’s life.

Let us take a closer look at some of the stories. The first story Apon Ghar reflects upon the million dollar question of how long it takes for someone to belong. Some of the stories seems like drawn from his own life experiences. The first one seems like that. The protagonist Anirudhdha Choudhury’s work brought him to this far off place of western Assam. He married a local girl, settled here and worked for the all round development of the place. But even after that a question is raised as to does he belong here. It leaves him feeling rootless and a perennial outsider.

The second story Teje Dhowa Sweater is a simple story of the predicament of the working class poor. He tries to bring into gender discrimination of everyday life as well. Some other stories like Bodhyovumit Manavatar Gaan, Bisforon, Mathon Eti Xoru Xopon etc reflects on the violence that have rocked the state from time to time. The BTAD violence of 2012 ensured that the common people who cohabited for ages suffered most. Sub nationalism and dreams of freedom pushed many youths towards insurgency. The futility of such decisions and its impact on the family is reflected in some of his stories.

Some other stories focussed on the violence caused by linguistic divide that the state witnessed. What his story succeeds in doing is showing that how exclusivist chauvinist politics draws ridges amongst common people. The lead character of his story Smriti-Bismriti was astonished on hearing Assamese in Cooch Behar. It leaves the reader with a feeling that the need of the hour is to build more bridges rather than walls.

The theme of this collection is varied across social spectrum. Some touches the gender question and talks of traditions that dehumanize women. How women are left with very few choices and forced to fir in a role decided by the society is reflected in his stories.

The collection of stories Ei Kahinibor brings the secluded area of Halakura to the Assamese readers. Coming to the literary discourse, this part of undivided Goalpara is not well represented. Dhanabindu Sharma’s stories try to fill that void. It brings forth the problems of this area from the perspective of the people. Be it illegal immigration, the question of citizenship, poverty, outmigration etc, these are stories of people whose voice is often marginalised.

Some of the stories did tend to go into unnecessary details at times, dragging the plot. Some stories like Teje Dhowa Sweater failed to retain the voice of a working class father lamenting the lack of warm clothes for his children. Too many issues were brought in a single story at times to muddle the plot. Most stories with very definite endings tended to foreclose the imagination of the readers.

The stories succeeded in providing delight to readers despite their limitations. They make readers reflect on pertinent socio-political issues. The author’s keen observation is beautifully reflected in the stories. There are a few printing mistakes which should be avoided in later editions.

Parvin Sultana

Parvin Sultana

Parvin Sultana is an Assistant Professor in Pramathesh Barua College of Assam. Her research interest includes Muslims in Assam, development and northeast, gender etc.