Oh Dear !! Give me A Bit of Earth

"A Bit of Earth- A Collection of 27 short stories" authored by Krishnendu Chakravertty


Review by Manas Pal

Each of our days is insanely brute in its eternal push on us. All our understandings of yesterday, which throw up a construct of poignant, passionate, and yes, often partly politically motivated moments, are ravaged by new experience and new complexities that are spilled out as the life unfolds in its own style and volition-next day.

The uncertainty is killing, emotionally and socially.

It is hence not quite unexpected that such uncertainty would fix us up in a box of what is akin to Hamletian dilemma. Torn between the duality of conceptually passive and conceptually active states of mind, most of us- common men- would like to take refuge in the silent shadow of the big tree by the riverside and watch the sun go down the West with a hope that there would again be a new dawn and new Sun. We prefer to remain cocooned in our world of strange complacence.

But with the emergence of social media , especially the Facebook , to be precise for the last seven or eight years , this duality has gradually been thinning out –mostly for the common man’s exposure to a whole new virtual world which is in essence extremely active, absolutely engrossing and happily absorbing and, at the same time, fully supportive. The instant interactions, appreciations and criticisms that come along are all the more inspiring. Now, anyone who is into this new encouraging and exciting world of social media –a brave new world, indeed-are turning more and more, and aggressively too, to be conceptually active. The natural, and definitely a refreshing, outcome of this sudden change especially in the creative writings is-- long awaited flight from the politically corrected and putatively defined themes, structures and formats which the established writers would tend to stick around. Emergence of a new genre of writers who either first tried their pen in the Facebook or someway was encouraged by their ‘friends’ in the social media - is making a change in the whole concept. While the Facebook has given a launching pad at first phase, at the second phase the traditional publishers judging the popularity and strength of the author have started coming forward to help them publish their books.

‘A Bit of Earth’ of Krishnendu Chakravertty which hit the stand Agartala Book Fair three years ago-a collection of 27 stories by its normative definition is autobiographical (published by নীহারিকা পাবলিশার্স of Agartala). The title of the book , though exudes a poetic feel and may remind someone of the small girl in the famous album , the stories that included here are by all means straight and simple. Most of them were once written in the Facebook and took the media by storm. Bound by two hard covers with brilliantly befitting cover design that speaks a lot, symbolically, by Ayan Chaudhuri ‘A Bit Of Earth’ is Krishnendu’s first book.

The stories are written in surprisingly lucid style and each of them are different in exploring extraordinary moments and extraordinary people . None of the incidents or for that matter the characters depicted in the stories are in strict sense ‘unknown’ or alien to the world of our own generation. But it was the writer who extracted –layer by layer- the ‘wonders’ that are lying beneath the seemingly meaningless common demeanor of them all. The humane , the innocent , the funny and the nonchalant –all type of characters and all of them independent and self contained- are presented before us by the author in a line- to tell their stories compelling us to reexamine our own experiences – which are largely, perhaps, similar. Stimulation cannot be just ignored.

As you proceed you will find that Krishnendu in his each story was addressing a deeply personal theme with unbelievable narrative clarity.

The most important part of the stories is that—each of them- brings alive a particular time and space that the writer’s generation can immediately relate to. One element that stands out is a strong, though unpronounced, undercurrent of longing of the author to revisit the magical pasts which were so brutally and insanely destructed by the days that came by overlapping each other. But then nostalgia is always cherished by longing only.

As I read his stories I found for all the affinities in his ‘looking back’ styles, Krishnendu seems to have founded his narrative on a quite different conviction. He shares the imaginative largeness that crossed the limitations, mostly, of subject matter and personal proclivities. The readers , unknowingly though are given on a platter a respite from the daily drudgery to sit back and find in their exalted contemplation some space for expansion of their very own unfinished childhood and dreamy youth.

A consummate storyteller that he is, Krishnendu quite obviously did not go on ‘choosing carefully’ his subject or sought to persuade anyone to listen to what he had to say. It is as if he was telling his stories unmindful of who was listening or who was ignoring. He tells his story because he had to, if not for anyone, for himself- to remind him of his childhood, his friends, his cricket days, his adventures and misadventures too. The canvass is wide and enticing. Yet, in that context the stories are passionate but indifferent to structural rigidity.

While reading the ‘A Bit of Earth’, his stories bring to my mind a sepia toned panorama : Those beautiful roadside open shops with coffee, cookies and dangling souvenirs with one wizened face, absorbed in himself, playing violin by the side. Often a passerby gets interested and he stops, listens to the forgotten music and then sits with a cup of coffee, cherishes the magical moments and resumes the walk. Krishnendu played the violin and the soft tune was hypnotic.

The book in a sense does also carry an unmistakable reflection of typical Indian fascination for cricket. The author with his passion for cricket here stands one among the billions other Indians. A good many stories in comparison to others dwelt on or referred to this particular game –his personal involvements in the game right from his childhood were depicted quite deftly like a skilled painter , time and again with happy colors. For example once the author, then perhaps, six or seven years old, was bowled out at first ball, but not ready to leave the field he stood to ground with all courage and conviction announcing to fellow kids that according to cricket norms and regulations none should be declared ‘out’ by first ball. What happened to the kid Krishnendu after that is anybody’s guess, but he, during the book release programme on February 5 last candidly admitted that he had actually once nursed a dream to be a Cricket writer, if not a Cricket player.

As an agriculturist by education and police officer by profession, when Krishnendu penned his stories, quite expectedly some of them exhibited –and very brilliantly indeed-his close encounters with various shades of human characters. The unsolicited advice from his school friend– who made it big somehow – for doing something meaningful in life or seeking help from him if so required as he was certain the boy who never studied but only played cricket was destined to be a total failure in life. The friend’s total indifference, or neglect in other words, to listen and understand what the boy- now an IPS –wanted to say lifted the spirit of the readers to a certain level –where childhood friendship and bondage –wits and humor apart, reappear with a new meaning, refreshingly.

A Bit of Earth with its 27 stories –indexed haphazardly –in an undisciplined manner, as if put the way they just came, overflowing - allows the reader to travel down the lanes and bylanes of memories of past and gives him or her a widened scope to –seek, inquire and cherish. Spending sometimes with the book would mean a different engagement, strikingly beautiful moments –perhaps with reader’s own yesterdays with a delight.

A Bit of Earth – A collection of 27 stories

Publishers : Niharika, Cover Ayan Choudhury Price : Rs 200.00