Shadow from Ladakh

Last week I came across a news item which carried out the news of HH Dalai Lama who was quoted saying Tibet would control China in the future, of course, via Buddhism. I was little amused to read the statement, as to why spiritual leader like him talking of language of controlling China. May be he meant something else. As we know, HH Dalai Lama is Tibet’s spiritual leader who is in exile in India since 1957. Incidentally, I was reading a novel on Ladakh by Bhabani Bhattacharya titled Shadow from Ladakh(actually, its Marathi translation by famous author late Vyankatesh Madgulkar), which is having Indo-China war in the backdrop, which mainly happened in Ladakh. It also had a chapter on situation in Tibet and protagonist meeting HH Dalai Lama, drawing similarities of the situations. I wanted to write about that book a bit here. The book reminded me of famous war movie of bygone era Haqeeqat which was based on war in Ladakh region with China itself.

This original book is very old, written in 1966, that is after the war itself, which took place in 1962. The novel having a backdrop of this war, but is not a war novel. It is about protagonist(Satyajit) following Gandhian principles, influenced by his thoughts, and another one(Bhaskar) who is influenced by principles of capitalism, interested in participating in industrial and material growth. The novel displays their conflict on the backdrop of war which has breaks out in Ladakh. There are commentaries on relationships of China and India, and China’s socialistic ambitions, overall situation that time. HH Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader of Tibet, also had exiled to India recently, again due to conflicts with China. There is full chapter in the novel where protagonists meets him at Dharmashala where is in exile, and chats with him. There couple of chapters describing insurgence by China, vivid details of India’s fight back, challenges, issues faced by Indian forces, and then how China back off at the end.

Satyajit is living his life at a place called Gandhigram where he is dedicated to upliftment of rural area, poor people, by following Gandhian principles. This was first time I had heard about Gandhigram. I knew of Sevagram in Maharashtra setup by Mahatma Gandhi himself. But looks like there is town called Gandhigram in Tamli Nadu, setup way back in 1947, with similar aim. Bhaskar, who is an engineer by profession, is returned from USA. He has been appointed on steel plant, whose location incidentally near to Gandhigram. The steel plant and its surrounding area is named as Lohapur. The conflict reaches its peak when steel plant eyes the land of Gandhigram for its expansion. This the climax and one should read the novel for that. The author also detailed out the responses from both of these protagonists, towards China’s insurgence, which is also very interesting to read. Satyajit, the Gandhian, plans to lead a peace army(शांतीसेना) to protest war in Ladakh. The chapter in which author details meeting of Satyajit with HH Dalai Lama(though fictitious, as it is part of novel) is an example of author’s imagination. Here he draws parallels between how Tibet and India got impacted due to China’s ambitions.

The novel portrays the clash between two ideologies as said earlier. The timing was very unique from India’s history perspective. Gandhi era had passed, India is under Nehru’s vision and five-year plans, taking stride to develop the nation with industrialization, modernization, self-reliance in every sector. Though Gandhi era had passed, Gandhian values were still around. On top of this, this newly born nation was becoming victim of neighboring nations’ aggression. All this makes a very nice plot for a novel. After 40-50 years has anything changed? Wells Yes, and No, I would say. India still continues on the path of development with wide spread initiatives in every sector. We still have Gandhian values around, may be not in same force, but we also have ecological concerns for sure. Both of them are right in their sense. What is required is the fine balance. Then and now as well.

Finally a note on translation. Somehow I did not like the translation. The language construction does not seem natural many times, continuity seems to be broken. In fact the translation also was published long time back, and was not available for quite some time. The copy I read, borrowed from library, is a reprint of 2006. Anyways, this novel by Bhattacharya, had won Sahitya Academy award in 1967. As the note in the translated book, says, about this author who was not well known in India that time(but was well read in USA and Eurpoe). I looked up on Amazon for original English version, but it is prices is tagged at INR 1500/- may be because of its rarity. Bhabani Bhattacharya born in 1906, has written many other books. His first novel So Many Hungers, written in 1947, published in England, became very popular. The other novel Music for Mohini was compared with Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, by Chicago Tribune. It was good to get introduced to this author of bygone era, and generated interest in his other books.



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