Tender is the light
There are a few books and writers which take the meaning of writing as an extremely serious endeavour. Those writers are even rarer for whom writing functions as an important spiritual practice. Dhruba Hazarika, by all means, is one such writer. A postgraduate in Economics from Guwahati University; Hazarika went on to receive a host of laurels with significant contributions to the field of Indian Writing in English, marked by his association with the North East Writers’ Forum, and receipt of Katha Award for creative writing.
His latest novel, Sons of Brahma, follows his short story collection Luck, and another novel, A Bowstring Winter. The book falls in the category of that extremely conscientious writing which is done; when one closely feels not just for the home state that one is born in, but also an understanding, that why espousing of a basic creed of humanism, at times, becomes necessary to revive the lost fellow feeling. This also then becomes the standing point of Sons of Brahma. Its understanding of the political and social situation of Assam; mainly with regard to its relationship with both India and Bangladesh; persistently remains its strong highlight. This understanding surrounds the plot of the novel at various levels. The book opens, through the description of daily mundane life of a doctoral scholar Jangom Hanse, within the backdrop of lush greenery, and poise of Assam.
A strong visual quality is integral to the narrative, through the usage of the first person pronoun (‘I’), thereby providing a close sense of reflection and experiences undergone by the protagonist. The plot closely focuses on its protagonist’s art with Jangom very soon being forced to write for the ‘separatist cause’ by the leader of the rebels, Anjan Phukan. The emphasis on expressions, such as ‘us’/ ‘our cause’ (pp19-20); begins from an early part of the novel to provide a detailed insight into the background, and reality, of the separatist cause in Assam.
Within a space of the next few pages, the plot begins to progress very quickly with Anjam being shot dead, and Jangom being implicated in the entire incident. What remains in focus, though, is a very distinctive humanistic chord, within Jangom, when even in the face of so many unexpected events surrounding him; he continues to remain very sure of his love for his country, Assam; and moreover, why a commitment to basic humanity is way superior to any form of separatism. Amidst a series of enthralling and breathtaking events including Jangom’s numerous interrogations in connection to the murder; his escape with his close friend Pranab, and a beginning of their journey across the Brahmaputra; what stands out is a very categorical and genuine delineation of Assam’s social and political problems.
These range from the language issue to that of the illegal immigration (pp.50); the genesis of militancy in the state (pp. 114); and an overall seething neglect of the state due to it being caught amidst militancy, illegal immigration as well as lack of recognition of people’s rights. The highlight of the book continues to be unending conversations between the two friends, Jangom and Pranab; replete with both a humanist concern for their state, and a tender inquisitiveness to understand relationships. This also takes, plot of the book, to the next level, where fate of both the friends, and reason of their journeying begins to get related. An unknown truth, about Anjan, relates them in uncanny ways, and ties up with the unresolved ending of the novel.
Amidst the quivering shadows of so many symbols associated in popular memory with Assam—Kaziranga, the tea gardens; and most importantly, the Brahmaputra—the book sets, the correct momentum, to both understand and interrogate human and familial relations, against the tumultuous background,, of Assam’s social and political history in post independent India. Various characters in the book—Jangom, Pranab, Srabana, Nilim Kumar, Po — get united, through both a tale of intrigue, on the one hand, and unconditional love on the other.
Go for the Sons of Brahma. Both under the shadow of the river Brahmaputra, and fatherhood; Hazarika weaves a tale which is both contemporary and timeless.