Light and shadow- A little boy and the tragedy of Partition

Nilu- Nilmadhab was a little boy of nine or ten. His carefree days were passing by in the vast meadows beside the Padma river, while he spent the sunny mornings playing with his friends. Suddenly, one day, catastrophe struck them. The year was 1947, and Partition stirred up undivided Bengal.

This is the precise setting of Sankha Ghosh’s trilogy- Sakalbelar Alo (Morning Light), Supuriboner Sari (Rows of the Betel-nut trees), and Saharpather Dhulo (The dusty city-alleys). Written in Bengali, all the three books were published by Aruna Prakashani- the first one in 1972, the second one in 1990 and the third cum last one in 2010. The author Sankha Ghosh- born in 1932 in a village in erstwhile East Bengal- was himself a victim of the Partition. At the tender age of fifteen, he, like many others, had to leave his native place and head towards the unknown bustling city of Calcutta. Although he spent all of his years in the metropolis only, Sankha Ghosh could never forget his ever-present feeling of being out-of-place; being a shy and modest child- his difficulty in coping up with the busy city life.

Courtesy: Banglalive

It is thus evident that it is himself whom the author projects as the protagonist ‘Nilu’ in his three novellas. The entire story has been told from the viewpoint of the little boy. In ‘Sakalbelar Alo’ ( Morning Light)- the first book- both the Bengals were one. Nilu spent those happy years in the lap of Mother Nature, in the little colony beside the river Padma. Full of ups and downs, the days were more or less full of imagination and glee.

However, in the second book- Supuriboner Sari (Rows of the Betel-nut Trees), the bitter tragedy of Partition has already taken place. Little Nilu could not grasp everything that was going on, but he had to accept the fact that they were leaving his beloved land for good. In the absolute turmoil, he had to part with a myriad of memories, a host of people who were once so dear to him. In the third book- Saharpather Dhulo (The dusty city-alleys), Nilu has reached Kolkata. Leaving behind his childhood days, the lands where he spent those magical days- he is now confronted with the enormous gateway to the astir city life. Slowly, Nilu discovers the new world he has stepped in, and struggles to fit himself in it.

Sankha Ghosh’s inimitable lyrical style of narrating further beautifies the engrossing tale. The words he uses paint a complete picture in the reader’s mind- and one cannot help falling in love with his writing! Although it is mostly said that the trilogy is for young readers- it would be absolutely unjust to demarcate its boundary. To understand the lingering pain of Partition, the helplessness of the people who had lived through it- everyone has to dive in the pages of the three books. It is an unforgettable read- the nostalgic remembrance of times gone by.

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