Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Ekkos Clan: All Reviews

A promising debut in the growing realm of modern Indian fictionJug Suraiya

"For a novel whose setting stretches from the Partition-affected villages of Noakhali, Bngladesh to Arkaim in the Southern Urals , The Ekkos Clan is a daring novel. The scope of the narrative is magnanimous and deftly handled. But perhaps where the book falls short is the way that it is written. Though a racy and gripping read, there are rarely any flashes of literary brilliance, when it comes to the descriptive and the introspective. Involving elements of ancient history, mathematics, music, orality and linguistics, author Sudipto Das has weaved a cinematic tale of migration, revenge, and how the everyday preserves history in unique ways, unceremoniously occupying our locale. The narrative spins around the stories which Krotus, the protagonist, grandmother Kubha used to tell. Two successive deaths in his family kicks start a chain of events and discoveries which transforms the innocent childhood tales into caskets of hidden secrets. The Ekkos Clan should be read for its sheer aspiration and the intelligent handling of historical material."  The Sunday Guardian

"The book is primarily the story of two generations: a strong, but realistically flawed, woman facing enormous social upheavals, and the "coming of age" of her grandson in the modern world, harshly affected by events that connect the two lives. But, there is a curious difference in how the two are portrayed: The first of these characters is protrayed with a deep empathy, but at an instant in time, devoid of the flow that surely gave rise to her; she is more a legend than a character, a narrative counterpoint in a dramatization invoked to give substance to unreal times.  The second, by contrast is pure flow: fleeting, changing, and never with substance enough for us to get to know him. He too, then, is a narrative device, a "first person" presence that lets us into the events, an anchor for long winding discussions that provide the reader with enough scientific background to follow an interesting side line that the author seems to want the author to concentrate on, though its connection to the central events in the lives of either is rather distant.

But leaving aside this question of coherence and of the long interludes whose scholarly style clashes strongly with the light pace of novel, and leaving aside the undeveloped character of the narrator that makes the reader feel sophomorish voyeur in the matter of his loves, the bulk of the book is an adventure story uncovering events four thousand years back in history.  The scholarship is excellent, and one gets the feeling that the events could all be real.  There is an enjoyable air of the mystic about it which makes it a good read; but at the end, something is lacking in the telling.  The main story ends too soon when the current events are all clear, and the sojourn to the past feels like a protrusion designed to explain minor parts of the narrative, the stories in it that could not have been introduced before would better have been left to the imagination.

I guess what I am complaining about is the clash between the serious beginning, the off-putting humor, and the lack of a climax.  But, then it is the authors vision, not mine, and I must admit I lost little having spent a few pleasant evenings with it
." Tanmoy Bhattacharya

"I too grew up with stories of Noakhali. My grandmother belonged to the Roy Choudhurys' of Karpara, Noakhali. She of course, escaped the carnage, as by then, she had relocated to Calcutta post her marriage a few months before the incident. However, she lost her brothers and uncles and her family who happened to be at the desher bari that fateful week. The men of the family, were beheaded, young women taken forcefully by the mob and the mansion locked from outside and burned to ashes with about thirty people still inside both dead and barely alive. This was the same house where both Gandhi and Subash Bose had visited and stayed many times in the past year and my grandmother and her cousins had sang vande mataram in their public meetings. By then, everyone feared that Karpara Roy Choudhurys had been identified as enemy of Pakistan, and they urged them to leave but the grand old man refused to flee his bhite, his desh and forbade his family members to leave. He owned a .303 British riffle and announced he will teach the mindless hate instigators a lesson.

It look my grandmother years to trace a few women who survived. Some were found, years later, in the brothels of Mumbai but refused to be recognized perhaps out of shame and the angst they felt at their fate. My grandmother's parents fled at night, with just the clothes on their back and was helped by a muslim servant, in whose hut they were hiding for three days. They said, the house was still burning when they left on the third day. It took them many risky boat rides at night, covered up in burkhas, to reach Calcutta after a week.

So it was all too real for me to relive the stories I have heard all through my childhood - of the Bangla that was our home and the Bangla where we lost everything. In the later years, I am witness to the many scars the family bore from the uthbastu days of losing their loved ones and their bhite mati to insane violence. My great-grandfather, lost his mind slowly over the years, suffering from the trauma of what he had witnessed back in Karpara and perhaps from the guilt of having survived. His last days were spent in delusional phone calls to Gandhi, begging for help to quell the Noakhali riots and to restore peace. In his stories, despite the urgent messages reaching Congress supreme leadership in Kolkata, the much needed help never arrived. And when it did, it was already too late. Apparently, someone high up, delayed the decision for political gains. In his stories, the instigators of the violence and atrocity, were not local Bengali muslims. He said, the perpetrators rode horses and looked distinctly like the Pathans from Bihar, and they did not speak nor understood bangla. This he knew, because being a practising lawyer, well wishers asked him to form a negotiation team that proposed talks with the instigators but their offer was never accepted. I have vivid memories of what then seemed to be horrific tales told by a mentally unhinged old man. Among his stories were also the stories of the life that was. The innumerable festivals they celebrated, the rivers that were at once fearsome and bountiful, the green fields of paddy and the many many songs. I grew up thinking this was a mythical land where everything was touched by gold! That spell did not last long. And for years I wondered in anger about the injustice and political apathy. I wondered why no one told this tale of, what many believed to be, engineered violence to show Jinnah in bad light among the world opinion makers. 

I am sure, most of the families from East Bengal, who fled from their homes and migrated, have similar stories to share. So thank you for telling this story and choosing this as the backdrop to your mystery. I rambled for a long while." Piya De Bose

Review in Flipkart

Review by Ranga

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