A Review (First Published on Helter Skelter)
The Fakir is a fictionalised biography of Lalan Fakir, the great mystic poet from Bengal. The famed novel, written by popular novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay, was recently translated into English by Monabi Mitra. The story takes us back to 19th century Bengal, a land that was once feudal and oppressive.
A young man accused of stealing Kabirajmoshai’s horse, is brought to the landowner after being caught untying the horse. It turns out that the man borrowed the horse from time to time and returned him after a ride. Kabirajmoshai, a zamindar and a man of prominence, gets him to carry out a difficult task of chopping wood from a jarultree, which he carries out till late in the night. Kabirajmoshai also finds out that this young man, Lalu, is known to sing very well and has performed in a number of local plays. Winning the heart of the zamindar through his honesty and simple nature, Lalu becomes a part of his coterie. He accompanies thezamindar, at his request, to a pilgrimage to Behrampore, to take a dip in the holy water of the Ganges.
However, on the way to Behrampore, he is afflicted with smallpox and is understood to have died, when, in fact, he is only unconscious. Members of the pilgrimage party float his body in the river, before continuing on their journey. He is then rescued by an old woman, a Muslim, and is nursed back to health, thanks to her selfless care. Given his memory loss due to the illness, he stays on with the woman, who adopts him as a son. One day, he is recognised by a group of people from his village and is coaxed to come back home, where he has a mother and a young wife. On returning, he is cast out by his community and is socially ostracised. Kabirajmoshi refuses to believe that he is alive having declared him dead, and his mother refuses to let him enter the house, as having lived with a Muslim woman he has defiled his faith. His wife supports the mother and refuses to side with a distraught Lalu.
Read the rest of the review on Helter Skelter – http://helterskelter.in/2011/03/book-review-the-fakir/