Lahiri has always been an earthy (read earthly also) writer.If you
go through her works like The Namesake,the Interpreter of Maladies(few
of them) you can notice a hangover for the Indian soil.The diasporic
element is somewhat very strong in her discourse.
The latest one(I am yet to go through Unaccustomed Earth)The Lowland
however appears to be the strongest among all.It connects several dots
of family bonding,forbidden love and the spirit of revolution across
On the surface level it is a story of two brothers Subhas and
Udayan,torn apart by the failed movement of communism(yes it has been
a great failure).
On the other hand it deals with one’s responsibility towards family
and the nation.
It highlights the issue that one man’s revolutionary is terrorist for
the other one.Lahiri in a very simplistic manner focuses on the brief
life of Udayan..how he gets attracted towards the ideology of Mao and
Che and how does he meet his dreadful conclusion.
If you have gone through the works in Bengali Literature which dealt
with the Naxalbari Uprising of 70’s in Bengal,you will notice a
singular point of view,where it is narrated from the perspective of a
communist.But Lahiri managed to showcase the otherside through the
remorseful episode of Gauri,where she dives into herpast and remembers
how she helped the communist party to annihilate a vulnerable Police
officer.I mean numerous films like Bhooter Bhobisyot(the latest)
portrays the Cops as the hunter and the comrades as the hunted.This
novel also showcased such incidents but yes thumbs up to Lahiri for
describing another instance where the Police became the prey.Read out
“But in the world of the party it had also been expected for him to
help kill a policeman.They were symbols of brutality,trained by
foreigners.They are not Indians,they do not belong to India”
(Lahiri,Jhumpa “The Lowland”)
If you have grown up in the communist Bengal,you are bound to strike a
chord with the communist side of the novel,if not then also you will
find it alluring.
Thousands of youth like Udayan lost their brilliant career and faded
into stone tablets.Literally you will weep after you witness the
tragic plight of Kanu Sanyal and Charu Majumder.
Now let me speak about the novel setting. It deals with two locale,one
with that of Rhode Island and the other in Tollygunge.
My knowledge about about American landscape and their way of living
has never been firsthand.But my experience about Tollygunge is
absolutely first hand.I have been there for almost 18 years of my life
in that area,yes the area between the Tollygunge Tram Depot and the
Christian Burial ground and also beyond the grand walls of Tolly Golf
I really relived those parts where Lahiri describes about the nooks
and corners of Tollygunge.We always tend to look for the national
history and overlook the regional history,I am highly impressed with
the eloquent details of Tolly history.
It is a beautiful novel of brotherly bonding,clashes between the
orthodoxy and modernity and of course some messy decision by the lead
characters.In the end you will feel for Udayan,you will love Subhas
and Bela but the character which will leave you intrigued is
Gauri-watch out for the sheer transformation.
Regarding the ending.. ah its up to you to discover.
Someone please translate this novel in Bengali.
N B : Cherish the exchange of letters between Subhash and Udayan.