‘Jagari’: A look into the tale of the sleepless night

An engrossing tale of a single night spanning 250 pages, Satinath Bhaduri’s ‘Jagari’ occupies a unique place in Indian Literature. It was translated into English as ‘The Vigil’ in 1965 by Lila Ray. A fascinating fact is that ‘Jagari’ was the author’s debut novel, written during his imprisonment.

Satinath Bhaduri (1906-1965)was born into a Bengali middle-class family in Purnea, Bihar – where his father Indubhushan Bhaduri was a lawyer. Following his father’s profession, Satinath too started practising law at Patna between 1932 and 1939. But, it did not interest him. Instead, he was much more intrigued by the thorough reading of numerous case reports that were stored in the court’s library. These were the authentic sources of the history of a country, he believed. Amidst the political turmoil going on in the country, Satinath soon became involved in the Nationalist Movement and joined the Indian National Congress. For his part in the struggle for India’s independence, he served twice in prison.

‘Jagari’ (‘The Vigil’) was written in 1944 in the Bhagalpur Jail. It was first published in 1945, and was an immediate success. Set in the backdrop of the Quit India Movement of 1942, the novel weaves an intricate nexus between the personal and the political. It is written in the form of four first-person narratives. The four narrators are the members of a single family; father, mother and two brothers- all of whom are residing in different wards of the same prison. The whole family has been imprisoned because of their participation in the Quit India Movement while Bilu- the elder brother has been sentenced to death.  On the night before Bilu’s hanging, all the four members of the family individually reflect upon the circumstances that led to this tribulation, and look at the same episodes from different perspectives.

The style of writing used in ‘Jagari’ was very new to Bengali Literature, it was the ‘stream of consciousness’. The story dives into the minds of its narrators, and expresses in words the flow of their thoughts and feelings. The multitudinous thoughts going through their minds during the few hours of the novel give us a deep insight into the various socio-political dimensions of the anti-colonial struggle. The father and the two brothers- each with differing ideologies, look at the same truth from different vantage points. While the mother becomes nostalgic and reminisces about old times and Bilu’s childhood days, the father tries to think hard about what led his son to believe in an ideology that was different from his own. The narratives of Nilu and Bilu bring out yet another facet of the story- creating an atmosphere where the readers are totally into the minds of the narrators, and can trace every thought that goes through them .

Incomparably vibrant with an addition of ‘local color’, ‘Jagari’ is a must- read of all time.  

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