Book Title: Elegy For The East
Author: Dhruvajyoti Borah
‘Elegy for the East’ comes with a statutory warning: this novel is a work of fiction; the characters bear no resemblance to any person dead or alive. Yet, anyone who has lived in Assam or followed its recent history of turbulence will be able to relate to the characters — the young boy Prabhat who loses his mental balance after being interrogated under TADA for suspected links with extremists; the young window Sombori who gets raped by Army men; the mentally challenged Babula who is killed in an encounter and presented to the media as a dreaded terrorist; or Rondip, the son who can never return home.
Though a fictional account, this story brings forth the conflict between an overbearing State and a generation of youth that dreamt of a beautiful yet impossible dream.
Viewed through the eyes of a young Delhi-bred Assamese journalist Partha, who comes back to his home state to cover insurgency, events unfold as he, in his enthusiasm to do meaningful stories, jumps from one assignment to another —accompanying the Army on their raids, visiting the extremists’ camps to know their side of the story and sometimes just helping out the innocent victims caught between the two powers, which are simply beyond their control.
A sympathiser of the cause of the extremist outfit, thought not a secessionist, more often than not Partha gets emotionally involved with the people he deals with, revealing the humane side of each situation in the process.
As Partha delves deep, unearthing Che Guevara’s influence on the rebels, revealing the dark secrets inside interrogation cells to the fierce encounters that take place between the two sides, one feels the sadness, the anger, the hopelessness the characters go through. A brief romantic affair which ends in a painful separation, and yet another which leads to a marriage add the much-needed tender touch.
The nuanced narration comes as no surprise as Borah is a powerful voice in Assamese literature with a mature perspective on the conflict, as seen in his debut English novel ‘The Sleepwalker’s Dream’. After all, Borah lived through the days of the anti-foreigner mass movement that began in 1978, which later gave rise to the armed struggle by its offshoot ULFA and finally, the broken revolutionaries giving up arms to avail the facilities provided by the State.
Translated into English by Borah himself from his original Assamese novel ‘Kalantarar Gadya’, this elegy is indeed a lament for all those ‘broken dreams’.