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Foray into Tribal Hinterland

Anup Beniwal

By Bhagwandass Morwal
Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 324, Rs. 350.00


A formidable presence in contemporary Hindi literature, Bhagwandass Morwal has been hailed as the chronicler of Mewat, the land of his birth and nurture. Straddling Rajasthan, UP and Haryana, the region of Mewat, despite its unique cultural compositeness, lies on the socio-economic margins of India. The creative contours of Morwal’s much hailed Kala Pahad (1999) and Babal Tera Des Mein (2004) are shaped by the shifting sounds, sights and sensibility of Mewat that are as much rooted in the individual experiences of the author as in the collective memory of the region. However, the consumerist-communalist onslaught of the contemporary, in the guise of modernity, progress and vote-politics, has started asserting both due and undue pressure on the composite Mewati life style. Morwal makes this experiential reality a poignant blend of memory and desire, emotion and thought, the takeoff point of his creative imagination to offer a fictional glimpse into the present day Mewat. As such his narratives are in the service of common people; they take sustenance from the existential aspirations and inspirations of the laity, pitchforks it within the social, economic and political contours of contemporary India to present a simultaneous critique—both of the local and the national, the subaltern and the mainstream.   Ret, Morwal’s latest novel marks a transition—both a departure and continuity—in his narrative-aesthetic oeuvre. Though he moves away from his conventional creative turf in Ret, yet he persists with his imaginative and ideological sympathies. Ret is a story of Kanjars, a tribal community of North India, and the shifting matrix of their lives and times at the cross-section of caste, class, gender and community. It provides an anthropological peep into the psyche of a community precariously positioned at the margins of a society . . . as the nation trudges along on its way to democratic equality, social justice and empowerment; a peep that soon implicates both the writer and readers as involved interpreters of this trajectory.   At the centre of the story lie the inhabitants of Kamala Sadan, presided over by Kamala Bua, the grand matriarch of this Kanjar family. The narrative is woven around the economics of the body and the way this economics impinges on the culture and everyday relational and existential dynamics of Kanjars, especially the Kanjar women. In the very process of capturing—and interpreting—the complex and contradictory aspect of their everyday reality, the author weaves an engrossing tale that ...

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