Book Review

Reflections and confessions

  • In ‘Chhuteka Anuhar’, Ramesh Sayan reminisces about his childhood, but also interrogates the social conditions of his time
- Saroj GC, Kathmandu

Apr 26, 2019-

Presented as a collection of anecdotes, Ramesh Sayan’s Chhuteka Anuhar is a detour into the memory lanes of the past. Creating a landscape of memories, Sayan presents vivid recollections of experiences that many of us might have had growing up. Sayan is sincere, candid and expressive, not only indulging in personal musings, but also drawing on the narrow domestic walls created by a parochial mindset and social conditioning. In the kernels of these reminiscences, there is a critique of the existing socio-economic and political order of our society.

Written in short sentences that are pregnant with implications, Sayan’s style is confessional. He confesses almost everything—the stylistics of his presentation asking his readers to believe him, at least some portion. He, for example, doesn’t eschew the fact that he worked 18-hours a day for 30 months in South Korea; he failed his School Leaving Certificate examinations; he loved Rani, a girl from a different religion; he stole the forbidden coins from the lap of gods and bought biscuits despite threats of murder. Sayan depicts these as cherished moments of restlessness, even though he is cheating on friends and harbouring intense desires for superiority. These are all feelings that we might have gone through ourselves.

Readers, whenever they identify with similar situations, may burst into laughter and lose themselves in nostalgia, and may also find that images created in words are footprints that they left in their own childhood. More importantly, Sayan picks very commonplace and ordinary moments, and through a straightforward rendition, makes them absorbing. He leads us to believe that small entanglements and events of life are the basics of philosophy.

Sayan’s personal anecdotes nonchalantly critique our social and everyday practice. They are sarcastic in tone. ‘Baako ghadi kranti’, for example, speaks of ingrained gender discrimination, and the conservative mindset of his father who encourages him to be as quick as the second hand of a watch and sends him to the Tarai to get an education while the sister remains in the hills. More crucial are the questions Sayan asks—if his father had ever understood that the sister should also be quick like the second hand of a watch. This innocent question pinches to the bone. Sayan asks sarcastic questions in ‘Fail’ about why the boy was not arrested but the girl was when they were both caught by Maoist activists in a compromising situation. A question in the innocent mind of the ‘SLC-fail’ boy criticises the privilege a man gets even though he was equally complicit in the ‘crime’.

The pros and cons of the Maoist insurgency also get space. Though the Maoists vandalised existing infrastructure, they built new ones and worked for social justice. Similarly, ‘Kameshwar’ recounts the conundrum of early marriage, and how it has been detrimental to the academic growth of the eponymous character. ‘Pass’ is an incisive criticism of the prevalent university education system, especially reprimanding the evaluation procedure. In ‘Raani khan ki chhori ho’, Sayan reports on his revolutionary instinct to sit for a ‘rozah’—fasting—even though he is a Hindu. Beside these, Sayan lucidly and succinctly reflects upon the inequality between the rich and poor, the literate and illiterate, the dichotomy between the so-called upper and lower castes.

The book also includes graphic and candid depictions of adolescent psycho-sexual experiences. Description of romantic imaginings with the opposite sex, obsession with the posters of a Bollywood star—Rani Mukerji—and the passion and amatory emotions that these posters aroused in him are vivid and identifiable.

However, the memoir also takes a detour into bitter-sweet experiences—the separation from sister, the pangs of giving up a hardwon sim card; the obstacles faced in foreign lands; demotion incurred due to his lack of skill in riding a motorcycle; constant nagging in the workplace. These too are forthright acknowledgements.

Sayan mostly writes in a free style and in this memoir, there is no shortage of images to keep the reader engaged. His expressions are witty and endowed with exquisite humour—“bholi ma mare bhane pani ma baanche ko kaaran nai mare ko hun, mrityu ko jimma pani maile linu parchha”; “maanau premi chini ho, premikaa paani ho, uniharu ghuli raheka chann aapas maa.” His language has flavour and gives important space to thet (typically local) words.

Reflexivity, repetition and reversion are the fundamental assets of Sayan’s mastery over the representation of memories. At times, he examines his own feelings, reactions and motives and how these influence how he contemplates given situations. He bends back on the situation or entity that is being investigated. He does not blame his characters or the people in reference, but himself, whenever he feels an urge. Similarly, he repeats some sentences and expressions which add emphasis to his intention. And, there are occasions in which he reverses the word order to suggest a peculiar meaning. Examples of comical oxymorons, which derive a comical effect by revealing a paradox, only supplement his linguistic mosaic. For example, we often encounter the expressions like “ekai palta baalak hundai jawaan hundai, jawaan hundai baalak hundai”.

But not all of Sayan’s narratives are rich and profound. Episodes like ‘Bhakundo’, ‘Organic Maanchhe’, ‘Sathi’, ‘Hot coffee’ and a few more are not as captivating, but prosaic and insipid. Except for a few memories, ruminations on ‘Postcards’, ‘Posters’ and reflections on pets in ‘Gyani’ are not totally new and revelatory.

The memoir ends on a terse note: ‘Work’ is not a metonym for sadness. Instead, it is a part of life and in turn, creates identity for the person who embraces its spirit and endorses perseverance as a great virtue. While fact and fiction are kept at bay, this small memoir delivers graceful reading.


Author: Ramesh Sayan

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Lipi Books

Pages: 250

Price: Rs 345

Published: 27-04-2019 07:00

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