Iadalang Pyngrope’s book is a delightful blend of history and fiction writes ANANYA S GUHA
Iadalang Pyngrope’s ”One Sohra Summer” is a delightful blend of history and fiction. Set against the backdrop of the late 18th and early 19th centuries the novel gives vivid expression of Khasi society in the East Khasi hills, in Sohra now popularly known as Cherrapunjee. Significantly it is set against the background of the pre Christian era.
The novel speaks about trade of the people who want to make forays in Silhot (Sylhet) in Bangladesh, and the erstwhile East Pakistan. Sohra borders Bangladesh, and the novel is an exploratory account of what life could have been in a tiny village, where economic compulsions made people to take the arduous task of travelling to Silhot, for barter and trade. An ordinary villager Bor takes upon himself to display his exploits to travel to Silhot. to improve his quality of life, and also as he claims, for the betterment of the villagers. The close knit society regards him with awe, as he sets forth to go there, with his team. Soon he makes more frequent trips to that area, which the villagers know about, but have not visited. In one of the trips he takes with him Kupar, whom his daughter Mon secretly admires. Kupar cannot withstand the ravages of the journey, and dies. Bor suffers from a guilt complex after this and his daughter refuses to marry anyone else. The villagers treat him indifferently, and he becomes not only a broken man, but lives a life of inertia.
After much persuasion and self persuasion Bon marries another person, who is in love with her. Soon differences arise between the two, when her husband also decides to travel to Silhot for business. She returns home crestfallen, subject to the taunts of her sisters and mother. One day in a nearby village, she sees a person preaching the gospel. The first traces of Christianity have arrived. Soon after, her father Bor dies in what appears to be a ‘ suicide ‘. Bor dies guilt ridden.
The novel is an interesting exploration of personal and inter community relations, for trade and economic prosperity. There are frequent references to the language of Sylhet, reference to dkhars or outsiders, and the co- existence of hill people and plainsmen, by means of business and trade. The theme of economic sustainability, is deftly woven around village and community life in a village. Going to Silhot to improve the material quality of life, is the object of desire of many. Bor’s family possesses gorgeous finery, and this seems to be the target of envy. But after Kupar’s death Bor’s village is assailed by a devastating storm. The interweaving of religion, myth, the oral tradition and preternatural beliefs, are the hallmarks of the novel. Although the narrative is straightforward and lucid, this transparency gives the novel a striking readability. But beneath is a society trying for betterment in living and economic prosperity. The trade relations between the Khasi society and Silhot is prominently revealed. The historical dimension of the novel is one of its unique features with its subtle historical overtones. Historical persuasion augments the novel with fine glimpses into the past.
And what is the present? Sohra, now is a tourist’s paradise while Silhot still exists quietly on the other side. Is history forgotten? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. This novel has a disquieting open- endedness about it. The Prologue depicts Bon eagerly waiting for her father to return. The Epilogue describes a tourist guide showing tourists, stalagmites and stalactites. The rest is history!
Title: ” One Sohra Summer”
Publisher : Partridge
Pages : 122
Price : Not mentioned.