Translate The Content in Your Local Language

Sunday, 8 November 2015

‘We must defeat the loneliness of self’

Krishna Manavalli speaks to litterateur Dr. Chandrashekhar Kambar about his latest novel, Shivana Dangura

Individualism that destroys: “I reject the model of self-search that we have derived from European modernism,” says Kambar

Individualism that destroys: “I reject the model of self-search that we have derived from European modernism,” says Kambar


It was as a reader intimate with Chandrashekhar Kambar’s writing, and as someone in holy awe of his “demonic” creative energy (his amazingly prolific writing!) that I plunged into his new novel, Shivana Dangura. It is markedly different from Kambar’s earlier work, or anything written recently in Kannada literature. This time around, Kambar does not stop with drawing us deep into the labyrinth of myth and collective memory. He thrusts us violently into our contemporary world of global and neo-colonial nightmares. For those familiar with the microcosmic Shivapura of Kambar’s imagination — a folk world where gods and men co-exist, a tiny universe where time flows on, gathering even the temporary disruptions from outside — this new Shivapura will come as a shock. In his earlier novel Shikharasoorya, Kambar already shows how consumer economy threatens to engulf Shivapura. But in the end, Shivapura is saved. In Shivana Dangura, the foreign economic powers penetrate into, to borrow the famous Antiguan-American writer Jamaica Kincaid’s term, this “small place” of our Third World.

Why does Kambar conjure up the vision of this new Shivapura with a near-dystopic horror? Does Shivana Dangura point to a shift in his Weltanschauung? Or does he still present some alternate vision of life in Shivana Dangura? I asked Kambar about how this rather different species of work came into being.

Shivana Dangura is not fully moored in the mythopoeic imagination characteristic of your writing. The narrative alternates between the mythological and realistic modes. Towards the end, it reverts to the world of myth in the big scene at the Mother’s Cave. What do these narratorial shifts signal?

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 Jogti’s or shepherds’ songs are as legitimate as any other historical documents.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.

Some rebellions and search for new identities are born from tradition as it changes and finds new ways of surviving. Chambasa grew up drinking the Dalit woman Tungavva’s milk. NamahShivaya, who goes to the untouchable neighborhood for alms, is his guru. Chambasa marries the low-caste Shari. These transgressions are already accepted by Shivapura society. Chambasa also learns about the nation.

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 !

This is the Shivapura that we must rebuild with values embodied in the figure of Madevi.

Source : The Hindu , 5th Nov 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment