After almost a year, I am in Mumbai the city in the vicinity of which I have spent more than 20 years of my life. I lived in Panvel where our company had constructed a huge accommodation. But most of the offices are in Mumbai and employees who live in Panvel have to spend at least 4 hours travelling to the work. There is though a trade off. In Panvel colony you have big area for walking and also lesser pollution. It is a gateway to Beautiful Konkan region as well as to Pune. There are a number of good natural spots nearby Panvel. We landed at Santacruz airport from Delhi. Temperature was 29C and as usual humidity was very high. The same stuffy weather which we have become attuned to during our long stay here. In fact, I loved this city for its oddities. But like Saleem and his sister in the Salman Rushdie‘s Midnights Children, I did not shouted back to Bom. We hired a taxi and soon we were lost in the sea of people on the roads and vehicles. The familiar Udipi hotels, vegetable vendors on the roadside selling their vegetables and ubiquitous Coconut sellers and Koli women selling the sea fish, prawns were before eyes. There were same black and yellow taxis. Many new flyovers have come up in the city’s struggle to ease the traffic pressure. It seemed as if we have not got left the place for good and have been out of station.
Two movies based on the Booker award winning books: Salman Rushdie‘s Booker of the Bookers novel “Midnights Children” & Yann Martel‘s book “Life of PI” shall soon be released. There is no need to emphasize about the caliber of the books. Midnights Children is a book written by Rushdie at his creative best. It draws inspiration from his own family life. The main protagonists are born on the night when India becomes an independent nation once again notwithstanding some pieces being cut and carved into Pakistan. Both the protagonists grow up with the nation.
The story begins from the grandfather’s home in Kashmir, travels to Agra with his newly wedded wife via Amritsar where Jalianwala tragedy in which thousand innocent people are killed by the army under the orders from Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer. In Agra many developments take place and the family home becomes a hub for freedom fighters. Some marriages take place. Ultimately, one of the daughters of the doctor after marriage with a businessman moves to Bombay where they purchase a house in the now most posh locality of the city from a Britisher. Here the protagonists are born in a nursing home to two different women but are exchanged by the maid who for all of her life live under the burden of this guilt.The life of the Bombay is described so graphically that the reader feels he is living in the city himself.
The family except their father moves to Karachi Pakistan where many of their relative occupy very high status in the army. After this the protagonist joins the Army and is sent to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh where a war for independence is underway and Pakistan army is perpetrating most heinous crimes against the women and children. Then he returns with the tamasha walas to Delhi.
Whether the movies shall be able to do justice to the book, only time will tell. Many a times movies based on the cult books have miserably failed to impressed. But this time, it seems that movies shall be as successful as the books itself. Both have the renowned persons directing them. Rushdie is personally overseeing making of the movie.
Both the books revolve around Indians. Although the milieu of the Midnights Children is the Indian Subcontinent from India to Pakistan to Bangladesh and Back, the protagonist of the other book is Indian boy whom the destiny makes orphan when the ship carrying his parents, servants and whole circus animals perish in the ship crash and leaves to fend for himself on the deck of a boat with a tiger inside the boat itself. It depicts the bravery, wit and presence of mind to survive the travail and ultimately arrive himself and tiger to the soil to safety.
I for one have read the Midnights Children many times and Life of PI once and hoping that movies will be good. Here is the link to the trailer of midnights children
Sunderbans, the very name sends the imagination reeling about a amphibian land in the south of Kolkata spread over the maze work of islands created by Ganga, Brahmputra and Meghna rivers. These rivers which seem to abandon their discipline and break up like a fan in this land. It is labyrinth of channels encircling the islands which contain the most fertile soil in their upper crust.
The name seems to be associated with the conspicuous sundari trees which are called Heritiera macrophylla by the botanists. But Mughals, as narrated by Amitav Ghosh in his beautiful novel “The Hungry Tide“, called it Bhati Desh which means Ebb tide country. This became Bhatir Desh over time.
It is the land which is so surreal that there is no line of demarcation between reality and imagination. There are eighteen islands which is why it is also called “Atharo Bhatir Desh”, the land of eighteen lands. There are tigers which can swim miles and miles after their quarries. Crocodiles and dolphins abound here.
There is one chapter in the famous book “Midnights Children” by Salman Rushdie in which three young soldiers of West Pakistan who were sent to East Pakistan and committed heinous crimes like their army, after getting lost, land up in a boat in this Jungle. Rushdie then go on to weave a superb web about the description of the place. He tells that in rainy season, the Jungle seems to grow literally before the eyes. The fruits from the Nipa Palms fall and crack on the ground. In no time the ants swoop on the fruit juice. Since the light never reaches inside many parts, there live snakes which are transparent. Jungle begins to take a complete control of your mind and you forget about the time dimension. Clearly it is the work of great creative imagination of the writer but the author builds these things making base as some real stories.
The Jungle is so dense that if one goes inside, he will forget about the concept of time. The jungle has the power to stop the time. The land is famous for the mangroves which grow copiously and sometimes discard so much dead leaves and wood that they seem to be doing harakiri or suicide, if it were not for the crabs who live there and work as scavengers. They are the janitors who see to it that everything is spic and span or tickety-boo.
The people who live there have adapted themselves to the treacheries of the jungle. They invoke the Goddess “Bonbibi” before going to jungle to gather the honey and wax. The jungle is lorded by Dekkan rai, who stalks in the form of tiger. The legend is that Dekkan rai ruled over the entire Bhatir Desh but he became obsessed with human flesh. According to story, he accosted a convoy of boats which had come there for gathering valuables from jungle, he promised them to give the untold gifts of honey and wax in liu of one human flesh. As planned by the convoy, they left one person behind and when Dekkan rai came to eat him in the garb of tiger, he prayed to Banbibi, who then with the help of her brother fought and defeated Dekkan rai. In the end it was decided that Dekkan rai will rule only the dense jungle.
That is why, whenever inhabitants cross over to jungle, they worship not only Banbibi but also the Dekkan rai, the tiger. It is the place where the womenfolk wear the white saris like widows when there menfolks go to jungle for hunting and gathering honey and wax.
The rivers which have spawned these islands bring with them so much fertile soil from Himalayas that they seem to be playing a game of erecting and erasing the islands at will. Many islands are said to have been buried and no longer exist now. New ones can be born anytime.
There exist so many biomes which harbour myriad kinds of flora and fauna. Storms break where minutes before it was so still that everything looked like a still picture.
It is not far away from Kolkata and yet it is entirely a different world, breathtaking and beautiful and at the same time extremely harsh and unforgiving to the inhabitants.