Author: Manoranjan Byapari
Translated by Arunava Sinha
9789395073530 | PB | pp. 240 | 2022 | Westland
Imaan by Manoranjan Byapari is a story about a child now grown who faces a dilemma. Shuffling between a juvenile home and prison as a child he struggles to cope with the odd world.
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Imaan entered Central Jail as an infant–in the arms of Zahura Bibi, his mother, who was charged with the murder of his father and who died when he was six. He left twenty years later, having spent his time thus far shuttling between a juvenile home and prison. With no home to return to, Imaan ends up at the Jadavpur railway station, becoming a ragpicker on the advice of a consummate pickpocket.
The folk of the railside–rickshaw-pullers, scrap dealers, tea-stall owners, those who sell corpses for a little bit of money–welcome him into their fold, but the world of the free still baffles him. Life on the platform is disillusioning, and far more frightening than the jail he knew so well. This free world too is a prison, like the one he came from, only disconcertingly large. But no one went hungry in jail. And everyone had a roof over their heads.
Unable to cope in this odd world, Imaan wishes to return to the security of a prison cell. He is told that, while there is only one door out of prison, there are a thousand through which to return. Imaan–whose name means honesty, conscience–is he up to the task?
Written in Manoranjan Byapari’s inimitable style, where irony and wry humour are never too far from bitter truths, this new novel is a searing exploration of the lives of the faceless millions who get by in our towns and cities, making it through one day at a time.
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About the Contributors
The author was born in the mid-fifties in Barishal, former East Pakistan. His family migrated to West Bengal in India when he was three. They were resettled in Bankura at the Shiromanipur Refugee Camp. Later, they were forced to shift to the Gholadoltala Refugee Camp, 24 Parganas, and lived there till 1969. However, Byapari had to leave home at the age of fourteen to do odd jobs. In his early twenties, he came into contact with the Naxals and with the famous labour activist Shankar Guha Niyogi, founder of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha at the Dalli Rajhara Mines, who were leading a revolution to reclaim lands of the tribals from feudal lords who had captured them by unfair means.
Byapari was sent to jail during this time, where he taught himself to read and write. Later, while working as a rickshawpuller in Kolkata, Byapari had a chance meeting with the renowned Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi, who urged him to write for her journal Bartika. He has published twelve novels and over seventy short stories since.
The translator translates classic, modern and contemporary Bengali fiction and non-fiction into English. He has published over sixty translations. Twice the winner of the Crossword Book Award for Best Translation, for Sankar’s Chowringhee (2007) and Anita Agnihotri’s Seventeen (2011), respectively, and the winner of the Muse India translation award (2013) for Buddhadeva Bose’s When The Time Is Right, he has also been shortlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction prize (2009) for his translation of Chowringhee and for the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative Translated YA Book Prize for his translation of Md Zafar Iqbal’s Rasha, and longlisted for the Best Translated Book award, USA, 2018, for his translation of Bhaskar Chakravarti’s Things That Happen and Other Poems.
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