Phoolsunghi: a review

I started this year determined about one thing: to read as much as I possibly can. I began with ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ and moved on to ‘The Shadow King’. I picked up ‘Shuggie Bain’ next, though I started it last year it was not even halfway done and I am still struggling. Meanwhile, I began Phoolsunghi.

My family has anchored its roots in Bihar. I have wanted to snatch myself from this identity sometimes not because of any kind of stereotyping, but for the sole reason being our steadfast sense of superiority that stems from caste. You cannot remove yourself from the dust that is made up of your ancestors. As I delved deep into the translation by Gautam Choubey, the mention of kayastha threw me spiralling into the dilemma that my own life has become: we are still clinging to the false sense of community, pride and honor and it will never let me live a life that I can chart for myself as an individual.

I am not very well versed with the cultural history of Bihar though it seeps into our daily lives in the form of dalpittha(Bihari cuisine item) and chitragupt puja and occassionally through mentions of khet khalihans.(farmlands). We speak a language that has stripped itself of its Bihari accent and call it Hindi. We have created another state for ourselves and rest in the fact that we are far removed from the rawness of the many dialects of rural Bihar.

Bhojpuri is the language that speaks to every person who ever shared a history with the place. Its many dialects and variations present themselves as you move from one area to another. Often, the dialect is what a Bihari would use to pinpoint you to the area you belong to, much like Professor Higgins.

Phoolsunghi is a novel by Bhojpuri writer Pandey Kapil translated into english by Gautam Choubey. The language is fluid and does justice to the varied mix of emotions that sweep over me as I go from one chapter to the next.

A familiarity grips me as I traverse through the lanes of Chhapra along the bank of Saryu. I have never been to Chhapra. Yet the village, the people seem to rise from my imagination and place themselves squarely in the midst of the activities as they take place in the novel. I have an urge to read the Bhojpuri text now, so in that respect I am grateful towards Mr. Gautam Choubey’s endeavour to bring this hinterland to the forefront and to the masses.

The humanity of language and the emotions it is supposed to evoke does not get lost in translation. At times gut wrenching and brooding, I am sure the original text offers pain that sears through you, by the very rustic and raw nature of language. Yet the translation left me with a sense of aching closure towards the end: a profound sense of grief and silent resignation to the way life sometimes is.

Views expressed are my own.

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