A Tale Of Two Hamlets
The saga beyond an iota of doubt gives a detailed insight into a human psyche living on the margins of society. The read brimmed with woes, worries, whimpers and wails traverses through the alleys of a country-side rural fold. Well depicted the picture juxtaposes the subtleties of a village life where prejudice rules the roost and preys upon those marginalised. Grinding poverty without a blink stares in the face of those villagers who without fail die every day by degrees and there is no listening to their silent sobs which more often than not result in acute frustration.
The book beautifully penned by Taj Hassan speaks volumes about life of villages sprawling across India and their ire laced with desperation and depression seethes and spills in blood. The storyline revolves around Ramu, a barber. He was mercilessly thrashed by Subedar Singh, a man of a high stratum of society for, in error, nicking his cheek while shaving his mug off. This has ignited a small spark resulting in fire leaving the embers of revenge to smoulder as time sailed over the calendar. Now the village baying for blood has turned into a battlefield. Ramu Hajjam’s (barber) son Pawan swears to take revenge for his father’s mortification so as to teach the upper crust a lesson for disgracing someone whose fault is nothing but to be poor. Hassan has woven a fine yarn in the tale and is candidly vocal about caste system that not only dictates life and social status but annihilates the soul of a living being.
Crushing poverty and indebtedness have become too common a feature in the village where the dwellers feel muffled and muzzled where keeping body and soul together is more than a herculean task. Loans pile up at a fast track and inability to repay leads to exploitation.
A peek at this format of life is pretty picturesque. The read reveals racism that rips the surface apart and fuels hatred. Also horrifying and diabolical conditions authored by Taj make the novel a must read. This page-turner talks of turns and twists. Young generation moves to a place that promises a loaf of bread to breathe better. Life has coagulated for those who couldn’t but stay back. The tale depicts how left-wing extremism wields its clout particularly in areas where the government falters.
The plot knits too neatly the characters’ lives and their lament for socio-economic inequalities and how they combat for their rights and interests and struggle to establish their domination.
The writer has prolifically used Ramu as a prop that helps readers understand the emotion torn between pride and prejudice. Language is plain English with immaculate style of writing a prose, folksy and lucid.
Taking a cursory glance at the synopsis the story narrates the villages of Tesri and Bhagatpur that lie on the same side of the river Kareh. Bhagatpur is populated with the land-owning farmer caste, the low-castes live in Tesri. They look to Bhagatpur’s high-born for survival. Both the sides sail smoothly only until the fateful day descends upon the village, the local barber Ramu Hajjam is thrashed black and blue for accidentally cutting Subedar Singh’s cheek, and his son Pawan, burning in the fire of revenge, thinks that pride can be salvaged by settling the score in the same coin.
I personally found the read worth reading for different frames clicked in a subtle manner for real performers in the book that essay the whole plot like one on one. The pace is rather slow but gripping. The reading stimulates the grey matter. The novel talks about an ocean of heads dwelling precariously their lives in remote areas, too rigid to change for any occasion. The book spans a titanic chunk of population occupying the peripheral inroads of India which is real India the world knows as. The imagery employed by Hassan is awesome. The end is tragically bizarre. It takes one by surprise as his son, whom he loves dearly, dies and he doesn’t grieve his death, nor does he even shed a tear over his going away too far, for good.
By Syed Wajid Ali