Sharat Kumar
Paperback, ISBN 978-81-904559-5-4
PP 304, Rs 295
Samarendra was in a philosophic mode, “The truth you are looking for is that whatever I did was only for my own self. The fact is that ultimately all of us do what we do, only to please ourselves, for our own selfish reasons. There’s a sookti in the UpanishadsAtman eva hi krute sarvaha priyo bhavati. It is the eternal soul that does things, and whatever it does benefits everyone. The real problem always is to know what, in truth, is your real self-interest. And to know that, you have to know yourself! That is a daunting exercise, for it warrants relentless disciplined effort.”
“You mean to say the basis of a good life is selfishness? Then, why are we taught right from childhood, that selfishness is a vice not a virtue?” questioned a baffled Mukta.
“I’m afraid its connotation conceals more than it reveals. And hence, such terms are somewhat misunderstood. Words, like ‘selfish’, are simply symbolic, and what they mean to the listener is determined by his or her own experience. Take Bhagvad Gita, or Anna Karenina – they mean different things to different people. And even for the same person, its import would alter at varying stages of his or her own life.”
The novel, set in a town in western Uttar Pradesh, spans half a century, as the plot alternates between the pre-Independence years (1934-42) and the last quarter of 1989, thus straddling two generations of the Sinha family. The narrative parallels the times of the father and the son, moving back and forth in time. In Prof Samrendra Sinha’s story, the Red Mansion is a hub of political, social and familial bustle, while in his son Samar’s life it is the centre of intrigue.
The two time-frames, linked by the same locale – the family house – also correspond with the change in environmental tone of the period. While the pre-Independence scenario is high on idealism, social affinities, the moral fibre, the alternate setting sceptically questions the same very value system and debates a dilemma of sorts.
Farewell Red Mansion is English translation of the Hindi original, Lal Kothi Alvida. A television serial of eighty-two episodes based on this novel was telecast at prime time on the national channel of Doordarshan. Subsequently, a full-length feature film, Duvidha, was also produced. It has received Mention Spéciale du Jury at Strasbourg International Film Festival, France, 2009.

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