Title: So Many Hungers!
Author: Bhabhani Bhattacharya
Publisher: Orient Paperbacks
Source: Personal Copy
So Many Hungers is a modern Indian classic that depicts a dreadful picture of the Bengal Famine of 1943. Along with the famine and the pathos of the sufferers, the novel brings forth the spirit of nationalism and the zeal for freedom from British.
About the Author
Bhabani Bhattacharya was an Indian writer who is known for his social-realist fiction. A Bengali by birth, Bhattacharya received his doctorate from the University of London. His novels have received the highest critical acclaim in India and abroad. His works have been translated into several languages– 14 of which are European. Bhattacharya has travelled wide across the globe and has taught in many foreign universities.
A Truly Indian Novel
So Many Hungers is a heart warming and moving novel, based on the man- made famine of Bengal in 1943. The novel delves into how the humans themselves were responsible for the famine in which their own species suffered. The novel is set in Bengal. It has for its background the Nationalist Movement and the World War II.
The author shows how the government authorities manipulated naive villagers and took away grains from them. We see the bravery of Bengali people who took part in the Nationalist Movement. But above all, we witness the sufferings of people.
The author has presented the inhuman conditions of people in a deeply stirring manner. It is almost impossible to read about the plight of poor people without having wet eyes. From burying alive children to showing breasts, people do all that they have to do for the sake of living. Dead bodies lie scattered on the road side, while two groups of people make profit. One is the group of hoarders, the other is of those involved in prostitution. The author has presented spine-chilling picture.
Here I mention few lines from the text:
- A soldier … dropped a rupee into the begging bowl … She said no word and rose to her feet … Then the arms unfolded, stripping the ragged garment from her breast. So she stood bare … Moments went by, and the girl … drew the sari back to her bosom. … Another rupee clinked into the bowl. The girl … rose once more …
- “… How can you take by force what is not yours? … Are you wild beasts? ” … “Beasts!” shouted the young destitute … “Those others who lay by so much food and deny us crumbs- they are the beasts.”
- When you had to choose between the ache of hunger and the ache of indigestion, you would often choose the latter, …
- “No more pain, my godling,” she said … The mother … snatched it from its grave. “Witch! Murdering a child. Your own! …” … the woman whimpered. “Hungry, he has no sleep in his eye; he stares, only stares. Let me make him sleep- sleep in peace.”
What made me call this novel a truly Indian novel is the fact that this novel showcases the Indian mentality in a very clear way. It depicts the rural life in India, the difference in rural and urban mindset, the dreams of the rural people associated with cities, the concern of parents for their children and the taboos in Indian society. It is essentially an Indian novel.
The poignancy of the novel lies in its superb characterization. The characters in the novel stand out and are definitely going to stay with me till a long time. The characters of Kajoli and her mother are my favorite among several others. I feel it is their dignity that wins our heart.
The novel does not have a serious atmosphere throughout. There are a few delightful scenes too. I enjoyed reading Kajoli and Kishore’s short love sequence. The author also portrays the relationship of humans with their pets. Mangala, the milch cow in the novel, is no less than a family member.
The title of the novel is an apt one. The novel presents the different hungers prevalent in society. We see the hunger for power, hunger for an ideal world, hunger for freedom, hunger for knowledge, hunger for money, hunger for sex and not to forget- hunger for food. The so many hungers present in the novel are depicted through several characters.
All in all, So Many Hungers is a novel that I would recommend to everyone. It is the best novel that I’ve read till day. It, truly, is an Indian classic.
My Rating: ***** (5/5)
What are your views about this novel? Do think you’ll like it? Have you read any novel based on famine or any other disaster? Do share your thoughts. Thanks.
Available for purchase on Amazon.in.