Shekorer Daag by Mohshin Habib, publisher - Ankur Publication, Dhaka, February 2013
This world is God's greatest satire, I assume. Religion is provided for peace, nuclear bomb is for security, white is defined as beauty, long-lasting marriage is the image of love, 'save environment' summits are happening on skyscrapers and the list goes on.
Yet we are the best creature-maybe that's the part of satire too. From recent events, it is quite evident, that one of the finest mockeries of today's era is religion. Religion is supposed to convey peace, while it's just dividing people, raising war and conflicts.
American comedian Jon Stewert defined perfectly, "Religion. It's giving people hope in a world torn apart by religion." While growing up in a friendly neighborhood I never understood the extremity of religious conflict.
Then gradually my eyes has befriended with newspaper headline saying 'how many Hindus are killed or raped' or 'how many Buddha sculptures are broken' or 'how minority groups are tortured". I swallowed the truth that religion can come before humanity without digesting it.
The novel "Shekorer Daag" doodled the best picture of religious conflict. Mohshin Habib, a remarkable bilingual writer has set his novel's story line in Faridpur district with a fusion of imagination and reality based on 2001's socio-political events.
The novel "Shekorer daag" doesn't progress with a single story. This is a story-bucket of different people of different backgrounds pointing to one truth. Apparently, 1911 was the introduction of religious division in this subcontinent and the aftermath is still going on. This novel is just a demo of this consequence period. The central vein of the story is an old man's entanglement with his country.
When being a Hindu becomes a curse, every member of his family leaves for India. Only Hemen didn't go. He couldn't believe his beloved country can push him to the edge.
Also, there are the branches of characters with different image. Akhil Poddar, one of the main characters of the novel, starts the novel with an over-the-hill feeling-mesmerizing his old memories- which eventually turns into a nightmare in the end.
Then there's Shayla, Noman, Torikul, Sukumar-bunch of silently tortured soul throughout the story. Needless to say, all characters are portrayed with much vibrancy and detailing.
2001's election had casted a long shadow on the minority group's life, especially the Hindus. From my vantage point, Faridpur district was just a model of whole country where minority groups were attacked by political and religious conflict. Unfortunately, neither the Hindus could survive nor their supporters.
Politics, with its religion-arm, drove a wedge between Muslim and Hindu. Eventually these families had to leave for India. This novel perfectly delineated how religion defined their destiny-how ideology can turn a man into beast.
I believe a novel's vehemence depends on its vividness, may it be established by words or context. "Shekorer Daag" used two word-weapons side by side. Mohshin confected every story precise and picturesquely. He is a maestro of expression-a mentor of word-pool.
Even though some dialogues and characters seemed pretty imperative, still my brain didn't think twice to dive into his story. A half moon was painted on my face the whole time I was reading about Akhil-Alpana's youth. Nevertheless, the half moon inverted hearing the transition of Niyati and Shaymoli's voice from serene to screech. I saw how cupid dragged Tarikul to death.
Did Shayla shed some tear for him? I felt the wind heavy around me, who knows from whose oozing? Noman's hashed hands bade me goodbye. He was planning to write a love-letter may be? I better leave that to imagination. Then I meet Hemen Ganguly, an old soul grasping the soil of his motherland with much adulation.
He didn't ask for the moon-only his right to live in the country. I heard a bunch of birds flied from the border hearing his silent screaming may be? I don't know. Some stories are never well enough to fit in a nutshell, this is one of them.
The best thing about the novel is its affinity between fiction and reality. This novel is indisputably a product of a very significant period. Writer, in a very reticent manner, interposed the idea why religion and politics are two separate issues and they should remain so.
Catastrophically, this country's politics was defiled with religion-hemlock in 1947, which is still circulating in our politics system. Mohshin habib, in his idiomatic style, reveals every layer of blindfold political system. His out-of-the-way wordings and context makes the reader feel attached to the book.
Till now, this is one of the best novels based on Bangladesh's socio-political system with the byproduct-religion. This book is the mourning journal of those heavyhearted souls who had to leave their motherland for good just because of religion. They had their promises to keep, yet they couldn't.
Mohshin's every word pinches me like an arrow from a distant darkness, my heart aches envisaging the bustle of people passing through the border. "Shekorer Daag" leaves me with an absurd nothingness-no urge to protest-no hope of light.
It strikes me with the bundle of question, is that what politics for? To uproot its ancient citizens? That's how religion used? To enlighten people with darkness? I feel Nietzsche whispering in my ears, "Is man merely a mistake of God's? Or God merely a mistake of man?"
The reviewer is schooling with BRAC University.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org