Catalysts of change
Jyoti Singh

Dreams Die Young
by C. V. Murali. Frog Books. Pages 95. Rs 145.

WHAT makes a terrorist? Is it a consequence of some kind of a despair rising out of the system? Is it a ramification of the pitilessness, deafness on part of the higher section of the society that aggravates the sense of incompatibility with the social structure? These are some of the pertinent questions that Murali’s debut novella, Dreams Die Young poses.

A story in the flashback, it relates to the protagonist—a US-based brilliant professor—Rajat Sen’s odyssey down the memory lane, tracing the past after a chance meeting with his college days’ friend-in-aide, Arindam Sanyal. Ruminating the tormenting memories of the past, Rajat vividly remembers how he was impressed by the young and idealistic Arindam’s dissatisfaction with the social system and its inequities that overlooked the suffering of the poor. This close dyad had led him to join the Naxalite movement, a student’s uprising that had rocked Bengal in the early 70s.

Rajat felt himself dragged hypnotically into Naxalism by the altruistic aspiration of creating a classless social order that values people, the rich and the poor at par. Convinced by the views of Romen, Nabanita and Narendera—ironically all hailing from sound families but empathically touched by the endless suffering of the deprived—and the other members of the group that there was a need to restructure the entire social order that exploited the poor ruthlessly, by demolishing and constructing a new structure so that the share taken by the property-owning class can be justified, Rajat agrees to tread the path of violence to achieve the end.

To shake the foundation of bureaucracy and polity, Rajat executes ruthless plans of killing politicians and other government officials on high posts. The group suffers a heavy backlash from the government. He wakes up from the reverie of violence only when he finds himself aiming at his very own father, a very honest and compassionate man. It is only then that he realises the futility of the mode of their attempts to restore a classless society. He finds himself engulfed in a deluge of very upsetting and viable questions that demand quick response: Would they ever achieve their end by killing innocent people? Would their attempts to rebuild the society by cleansing the system of the people like the politicians, landlords, industrialists, police, the contractors, etc., who run the system, ever put an end to the suffering of the poor and the needy? These crucial questions that gnaw, nag and assail Rajat make him reexamine and reason about the right way of treating the problem, upholding the values of respect for life and tolerance, simultaneously remaining committed to the ideas of democracy. He quits the group, the group breaks and a lull descends over the whole issue.

Murali has woven a veiled commentary on the present seething turmoil. That the discontentment, due to exploitation, poverty and inability to give oneself a decent and dignified life, raging the hearts and minds of the young generation needs instant attention, lest it should increase the sufferings of humanity, if they happen to choose the path of violence like Rajat to meet their objectives, is vehemently stressed.

The writer carefully maneuvers the readers into thinking that though the dream of Rajat is righteous, the method and mode that legitimised violence to achieve it is wrong and also that it is important for the politicians and other government officials sitting on high chairs to know that the callousness on their part to eliminate the suffering of the poor may have disastrous consequences. Murali’s lucid prose, efficacious trenchant realism, an insightful mode of characterisation, psychological overtones has enabled him to unravel a theme of timeless human significance—relationship of the individual and the society, raising the book to the stature of a sociological document.