Krishna Manavalli speaks to litterateur Dr. Chandrashekhar Kambar about his latest novel, Shivana Dangura
I often use the traditional folk method of narration. It starts with a geographical reference. We locate Shivapura in the Jambu Island. We establish its place in the world. No need to rely on maps here. Nor do we rely on written accounts in narrating events. Jogti’s or shepherds’ songs are as legitimate as any other historical documents. The universal “Once upon a time,” takes us into myth time. Shivana Dangura starts in this myth time. The British bring with them the notion of another Time, the “historical” time. Corruption sets in with the chime of this colonial clock.
In the myth vision, Shivapura is connected with many other worlds. Time becomes seamless. History stands still in the Mother’s Cave. The protagonist Chambasa learns the truth of life here.
You weave another strand of history, that of the freedom movement, into the novel. This history becomes a part of local mythology.
The movement was a part of my childhood. We knew the outsider was here. The British made us keenly aware of it with their marches, military bands, and processions. But they hadn’t come into our stories yet. Then Gandhi came. We accepted him. He became a part of our folk plays. Often, people from the movement came to the village theatre and begged money for the struggle. People cheered, threw money, and felt some sense of unity with the nation.
Through the novel, what happens to women and the environment are intertwined. Women are raped. Bagirti gives birth to a physically-challenged child because of the toxic environment. Kuntirapa tries to prostitute his wife for political advancement.
The political, sexual, economic, and environmental discourses are inter-linked. You see Kuntirapa’s machinations, the State joining hands with global economic powers, or the greed that makes farmers grow cash crops instead of their food. This consumer culture pushes towards immediate satisfactions. The rape of women, rape of land, and disruption of community bonds happen simultaneously. Kuntirapa destroys the environment for his gain. He uses rape as a form of political and personal revenge.
Women also resist this neo-colonial invasion. Tungavva, the mother-figure and conscience-keeper of the village, cautions people against lust for foreign money.
And there’s Madevi! She connects the “three” alternate visions of life in the novel. If humanism should live in Shivapura, it should have a Chambasa. It should have a Madevi who leads Chambasa into the Mother’s Cave.
Chambasa goes through something that looks suspiciously like a modernist self-search! You are often critical of this type of individualism. When you describe Chambasa’s psychological torment in jail, you also bring in stuff like the split-self, inner monologues, surreal dreams…
I use this mode deliberately. Earlier, Chambasa was a part of his community. When he kills, he becomes the Other. This egotistic act is also linked to his boyhood “rebellion” of throwing stones at the temple.
The trauma resurfaces when he sees his reflection in the lake. He sees his dark boyhood self. The same boy has grown into an angry young-man who killed five people. The self-regarding moment is a symptom of mental disease. Modernists celebrated it.
Then, Chambasa sets the jail inmates to work on the barren land. He creates a new community. He goes to the Mother’s Cave. Even there, he cannot find the truth all by himself. Many people help him--NamahShivaya, the old man of the dream, and Madevi.
Shivana Dangura provides some hope in the end then? You mentioned “three” alternate visions.
I reject the model of self-search that we derived from European modernism. Such individualism only destroys. We must build, and defeat the loneliness of the self. Not the disease of looking at oneself, but finding that self in the collective space. The folk community is “balaga,” kinship based on living bonds. So, Chambasa goes to the Mother’s Cave with the harake (vow) of building a new Shivapura. He hears Shiva’s Drum.
You see another powerful vision of collective empowerment when Madevi abandons the race that she is winning. She returns to help a contestant who falls. The other physically challenged children follow her. Finally, they all hold hands and reach the goal at the same time!
At the end, Madevi narrates what Tungavva told her. When the ecological disasters started happening, Tungavva dreamt of a blood-sucking yakshi haunting the village lake. But this yakshi ran away when Madevi arrived. She grew scared that Madevi would hold people’s hands and lead them to collective victory !
Source : The Hindu , 5th Nov 2015