Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 9 (Oct-Dec 1984) p. 49.


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The Matrix of History: A Study of Satinath Bhaduri 's Dhorai CharitManas(1949-51)

Shirshendu Chakrabarti

CONCEIVED on the framework of Tulsidas's Ramacharitamanasa, Satinath Bhadurfs Dhorai CharitManas is truly an epic of our time, with the common man at its centre. Although the novel is rooted in a remote comer of Bihar, a narrow world that is built up in minute and intimate detail, the life that it depicts, especially the chequered fortunes of Dhorai, is breathtaking in its sweep. Any possible sense of claustrophobia is relieved by a central symbol of the novel, ihepakki (the main road), which links the obscure rural community with the world outside. The political background is the same as inJagari, Satinath's first novel; only, in Dhorai, he withdraws from the foreground of political conflicts into the backwaters, thereby achieving, perhaps achieving, paradoxically a more comprehensive vision of reality.

The novel is unprecedented in the history of Bengali fiction not merely because it moves away from familiar middle class experience into the teeming and vast world beyond it, but also because it attempts to portray this world as it coheres in the consciousness of its inhabitants. A somewhat comparable experiment had been undertaken in the 1940s by the 'KalloF group of writers who tried to write novels on the hitherto ignored life of the lowest strata of society. On the whole, however, these novelists seemed content with gazing at this life through the haze of their own middle class premises and predilections. At the same time, the bulk of left-wing fiction on the subject, according to Satinath's diaries, crudely and tendentiously distort reality.' In contrast, he tries to present 'essential social factors freely, naturally', often in Dhorafs own language, and through his developing consciousness .2 Thus, at the outset of the novel, a preliminary description of the Tatma colony is interrupted by the authorial reflection that

Journal of Arts and Ideas 49


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