Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review- Lajja by Taslima Nasrin

Goodreads Summary:

The Duttas - Sudhamoy, Kironmoyee, and their two children, Suranjan and Maya - have lived in Bangladesh all their lives. Despite being part of the country's small Hindu community, that is terrorized at every opportunity by Muslim fundamentalists, they refuse to leave their country, as most of their friends and relatives have done. Sudhamoy, an atheist, believes with a naive mix of optimism and idealism that his motherland will not let him down... 

And then, on 6 December 1992, the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in India is demolished by a mob of Hindu fundamentalists. The world condemns the incident but its fallout is felt most acutely in Bangladesh, where Muslim mobs begin to seek out and attack the Hindus... The nightmare inevitably arrives at the Duttas' doorstep - and their world begins to fall apart.


*NOTE: We (The Readdicts) received a copy of Lajja by Taslima Nasrin from Random House India in exchange for an honest review. We thank the publishing house for the book! 

I had been looking forward to reading author Taslima Nasrin's Lajja since a very long time, and once I read it, I realised why it is banned in Bangladesh, but appreciated all over the world. Communal riots is a term residents of South Asia know very well, and fear as well. The negativity of human nature is at its peak at such times. It is the worst as the author rightly says in the book:

"During a riot, human beings put their humanity on hold. During riots, all the toxins in people's minds are released. A riot is not an act of nature nor is it an accident. Riots are a distortion of humanism." 

Lajja tells us the story of a Hindu family living in Bangladesh and the effects of the destruction of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in 1992 on this family and the country as well. Being part of the minority community, the Dattas are forced to burn down their own ideologies and seek for peace elsewhere as their own country fails to promise to protect its citizens. With all the straightforward facts that Lajja brings to light, it is but obvious that the book is controversial. But it is positive controversy, as it is what it is. The endless stating of facts as part of dialogues made the book hard hitting yes, but tiresome in some places. 

Coming to the characters, the Datta family comprises of Sudhamoy, his wife Kironmoyee, their son Suronjon and their daughter Maya. Sudhamoy's character was extremely well developed and meticulously portrayed and if only there were more people like him in the world, we would be in a better place. Kironmoyee was mostly in the background, but she had an important role to play. As for Suronjon, his character showed immense development from the start till the end, which was disgusting at times, and thoroughly admirable otherwise. Maya... Maya was a special character and the hero of the book. 

Lajja is a narration in third person where the author alternates, for the larger part of the book, between the points of views of Sudhamoy and Suronjon. There is not much to be said on the writing as the version I read is a translation, but it can easily be figured out that author Taslima Nasrin's writing is absolutely impeccable and flawless. Lajja speaks of the degradation of humanity and the feeling of hopelessness given to citizens by the body that is supposed to take care of them and that they should be able to rely on endlessly. This is one of the most powerful, violent and raw books ever written, and it is clearly a stamp on the bitter and highly repelling marriage of religion and politics, which is noting but an embarrassment and a shame. 


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