Is being cynical a prerequisite to creating a novel that shows the growing pains of a developing country as it tries to show it can compete on a global basis or are we just to think India is just a land of ‘slum dogs?’
Pakhibas is the saga of the declination of a family, a dream, and a future. This multi-dimensional novel includes a downtrodden family saga; the Communist guerilla war (Maoist movement ) in current India; and the socio-economic picture of Orissa. All these subjects are combined with a symbolic representation of a mythical story from the Hindu Vaishnavite holy book Bhagwat. In every aspect, the author’s tone is bold and spiky and heightens the awareness and senses of the reader.
The novel is the saga of an untouchable, downtrodden cattle bone collector, Satnemi and his family, and takes place in western Orissa. It is not a story of an individual person but of an entire family. Antara, the head of the family himself, his wife Sarasi, his three sons Sanyasi, Daktar, and Okil, and his daughter Paraba demonstrate the development of restlessness and frustration regarding the ongoing crisis of mankind.
A downtrodden man has a dream to see his sons established in their lives. So he names them “Collector” (Administrative Officer), “Daktar” (Doctor), and “Okil” (Lawyer). He dreams to see his only daughter, Paraba, as a bride in a respectable and rich family. But where the traditional occupation of cattle bone collection is the only way of living, could this ever be possible?
The elder son, Sanyasi, becomes a bohemian artist adopted by a white-skinned priest and has been lost in Japan where he has gone to perform his folk art. His illiterate wife awaits her husband’s return in an alien city.
The second son Daktar became a bonded labourer as the local youths of western Orissa usually prefer to make their living.
The third son Okil , who is considered by his father to be a lazy good-for-nothing, joins the Communist Guerilla movement, locally known as the Maoist Party.
Three days’ hunger forces Paraba to be raped for a plate of rice by a forest guard who the only representative of the Government in the jungle for the people and who also works as an agent for sex trafficking. Later she adopts the profession of prostitution.
The novel ends with the death of Okil.
In her narratology, the author has discovered novelty – she does not narrate the story in a simple way. Rather, she adds something more to her narrative technique for which her novel receives new interpretation and creates more scopes for different appreciation. Sometimes, the author does not expose the factual information in a straightforward way. Instead, she leaves it to her readers to search for the facts. And thus, this novel plays a seminal role in the realm of contemporary Indian fiction.
The New Indian Express wrote “You may call her creativity controversial and term her unconventional frankness as feminist but you can never afford to ignore this woman and writer of courage and conviction. Sarojini Sahoo is a noted short story writer of India and known for her brilliant boldness.”
The novel Pakhibas is a superior example of her boldness, even if in a gender-neutral topic. The novel was first published in the literary journal CHITRA in 2006 and in 2008, the Timepass Publication House published it in book form. In 2009, the Bengali version was published from Bangladesh by Somoy Prakashani, Dhaka.
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