Translated by Jason Grunebaum
Uday Prakash’s three novellas are at once spellbinding and heartbreaking. What’s so compelling about these three tragedies is that they reflect real life for the majority of people in current day India. The stories are written with a masterfully crafted blend of satire, sadness, humility and humour. The characters face one wrenching struggle after another and just when you think they can’t endure any more suffering the gods smile, provide a moment of respite, and then in the flick of a page hopes are dashed, crushed, and the struggle to survive continues.
Prakash’s stories unveil an India that most of us could never imagine, have never encountered. There is struggle and hardship but also a richness to the works, a beauty that shines through the writing.
‘The Walls of Delhi’ is about a secret, a dangerous secret, one that can make men disappear, never to return. Ramnivas discovers a hidden treasure that transforms him from a simple cleaner into a man of means, a man of standing, but this treasure exacts a heavy price: a man’s life.
‘Mohandas’ is a story of corruption (that sinks so deep it’s unfathomable), lies, deceit and greed, and one man’s obstacle-laden attempt to reclaim the thing that he holds most sacred: his name. Written with deep emotion, interwoven with facts, this novella alternates between a global view of the world and the microscopic inspection of the events surrounding on man in India. Cleverly written, the effect serves to provide an enormous canvas against which Mohandas’s life is played out. This story is crammed full of detail, vivid imagery, shocking events and a myriad of characters. It’s impossible to come away unaffected. ‘Mohandas’ touched me to the core, and it will undoubtedly resonate deeply with all who dare to read this eloquent tragedy.
‘Mangosil’ is a love story about the young, beautiful, tortured Shobha and the servant-driver Chandrakant who rescues her. It’s the story of their bravery as they run away together; it’s the story of their passionate, enduring love; it’s the story of their desperation to have a child that lives. And when, after seven births and deaths, they do finally have a child, Shobha and Chandrakant are further challenged by the fact that Suryakant is no ordinary child – he’s sick, diagnosed as having ‘mangosil’.
Interwoven throughout all three novellas is the hierarchy of the caste system and the devastating, brutal treatment of India’s poor; the majority ruled over by the minority. Prakash’s characters endure a suffering that we in the West would find intolerable. These novellas carry within them not just the characters and their lives but convey a deep message of love and hate, loss and gain, despair and hope that unites all of us, regardless of the colour of our skin.
The Walls of Delhi is available from all good bookstores or through UWA Publishing at http://uwap.uwa.edu.au/
About Uday Prakash
Uday Prakash, the author of The Girl with the Golden Parasol, has published numerous volumes of poetry and fiction over the past twenty-five years. He is an important figure in contemporary Hindi writing and his latest work The Walls of Delhi is an important addition to this collection.