Originally published in Bangla as AktaDesh Chai
Imprint: Forthcoming from Bee Books
Author: Prafulla Roy
Translator: Dr. John W Hood
About the Book
Kalimuddin and his family are victims of history. Originally lured from Bihar to what would become East Pakistan by the promise of a golden land for Muslims, they had struggled to build up a life for themselves in Dhaka where they were a minority amongst a majority of Bengalis. The Bangladesh />Liberation War only made things and in time Kalimuddin is forced to make the fateful decision to leave Bangladesh.
they eventually arrive in Mumbai living with hundreds of others in a chawl, but their ever-pressing need is for work, and getting work without appropriate identity proves to be very difficult. Life as an illegal in the vast metropolis is not only materially hard, it is also uncertain and dangerous.
About the Author
Awarded by the Sahitya Academy, PrafullaRoy, is a prolific fiction writer in Bengal. Apart from the trauma of the partition he had faced the aftermath of the Second World War, the great famine, the bloody communal riots. He has travelled throughout the country to experience the struggles of the poor–he had been among the tribals in Nagaland, the untouchables in Bihar, the rootless people from the mainland in the Andamans — most of whom appeared in his work. Prafulla Roy’s writing depicts powerfully and authentically the prevailing realities in both urban and rural situations. His characters are drawn from every segment of the society–be they professional, skilled or unskilled, of lower, middle or higher economic preferences revealing the multidimensional social maze in India. He has written more than 150 books including his novels and short stories. Many of Prafulla Roy’s fictions have been filmed, and a few of them bagged the national and international film awards. He also worked in the literary sections of a number of dailies in his later life.
About the Translator
John W Hood divides his time between Melbourne and Kolkata, writing about Indian and Bangladeshi cinema and translating Bengali literature. He has written The Essential Mystery: Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema, as well as books on Mrinal Sen, BuddhadevDasgupta and Satyajit Ray.
Excerpt: Everywhere there was thick, heavy darkness, into which the eye might penetrate no more than five feet. All around were trees and undergrowth, birds and snakes, denying humans any means of living there. The vast sky overhead was as black as tar. There was no enchanting moonlight, for the moon had not yet risen. The countless stars, like the eyes of dead fish, looked down on the world below. On such a night the sight of the stars made one shiver. However, this kind of dark night was very appealing to Fayaz Ali. To him, all such nights were a blessing, because only in the dark could his work be carried out.
At a brief glance at Fayaz in daylight revealed a man of about fifty, lanky, bent and with a hard, rough appearance. There were tufts of whiskers on his narrow chin and sunken cheeks. He had a straight nose, flaky, copper-coloured skin, gnarled and twisted fingers and a cunning look in his round eyes. Almost always he wore tight trousers, a striped short-sleeve shirt and a pair of faded old sneakers. His hair was thin and greying.
From his appearance one might guess that he was not a straight or innocent man, and such a guess would be quite correct, as Fayaz, indeed, was particularly artful and cunning. He was a tout, or a middleman. He had just one job, just one interest, and that was to pull the wool over the eyes of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and the Border Security Force (BSF) and bring people into India from the other side of the frontier. He had elevated his work almost to the level of a fine art. There was no reckoning the number of people he had led across the border over some thirty years. No matter how telescopic the sights of the BDR and BSF might be or how threatening their AK47 or 57 rifles, to this day Fayaz had suffered not even a scratch, nor was there any official trace of him. Indeed, the substantial security forces of two countries had no idea of Fayaz’s modus operandi. He was as silent and as devious as a snake in making his operations smooth and skilful.
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