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Adventures of Faizur Rasul


Anita Desai

BENGAL TO BIRMINGHAM
By Faizur Rasul
Andre Deutsch London, 1967, pp. 208, price not stated.

VOLUME V NUMBER 4 January-February 1981

This unexpected and delightful autobio­graphy would have been extra-ordinary enough for its lively, concrete and witty prose (all qualities rarely found in English written by Indian authors) but becomes even more so when one discovers it is the work of a Bengali Muslim who left school—the Victoria Memorial High School at Memari, a country town a few miles away from his village in the Burdwan district—at the age of fourteen to start earning his living. He did this in a rich variety of ways that make for a positively Rabelaisian recital which proved, in my case, such enjoyable reading that I wished for a second volume. Mr Rasul has not only the gift for living fully, an attractive enough feature, but also an unusual gift for in­fusing his prose with this quality. The picaresque account of his search for a living follows him from his Bengal village, just barely set rippling by the flung stone of the Civil Disobedience movement, to New Market in Calcutta where he worked as a shop assistant. For a while he was enthralled by his view of Calcutta society as it strolled through his shop to buy stationery, toilet goods and perfume but that soon palled and he re­turned to his village to work in a shoe set up by his brother-in-law. This, he dis­covered, was a grave mistake: after the excitements of the metropolis, he could not settle down to running a village shop and selling shoes to peasants. He ran away, along with the village thief, to Delhi where the two slept out under the trees in a park till a kindly Mullah came along and took them home and even found him a job in a shoe shop (a Freu­dian interpretation could possibly be given to the ever-recurring shoe in this account). But the village thief became homesick and persuaded him to return to their village. Faizur was too restless to remain there for long and took a job in Shillong, a new and therefore irresistible place to him. Here he was assistant to the contractor who supplied meat to the army and had to count the sheep and the goats and watch their slaughter. He has amusing incidents to relate—how two Hindu youths setting out to become monks at the temple of Kamarupa take him along with them to this isolated, mysterious and ...


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