Historical Realism In Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084: A Study

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EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCHVol. II, Issue 12/ March 2015ISSN 2286-4822www.euacademic.orgImpact Factor: 3.1 (UIF)DRJI Value: 5.9 (B )Historical Realism in Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of1084: A StudyGOPAL CHANDRA PAULPh.D Research ScholarP G Dept. of English & Research CentreMagadh University, Bodh-GayaIndiaAbstract:After the Second World War (1939-1945) with the declined ofempire, frustrated Europe began searching for an identity throughdramas of all sorts of levels like “kitchen- sink drama”, “absurddrama”, “comedy of menace” and so on. The aims of these dramatistswere to sensationalize, surprise, shock, to make fantasy or toaccentuate the antagonism of the old and the young. The post- colonialauthors in India, who were in search of both identity and artisticenergy, took interest either in the ethnic and the folk or in the directand explicit political conscious. Mahasweta Devi‟s twelve-act playMother of 1084, originally titled “Hajar Churashir Maa,” is apolitical analysis that lays behind the brutal massacre of BratiChatterjee and his comrades. The killing of Brati Chatterjee andhis comrades is a part of the organized brutality of the Naxalities in1970-71, committed by the police, the party in power, hired goons , andeven parties of the Left Establishment acting in unholy collusion. Itwas a phrase when the urban Naxalities were in utter disarray andretreat, and were entirely at the receiving end. In.the whole gamut ofthe play Sujata, the mother of corpse number-1084, is the mostimportant character. Throughout the story she is presented as a strongwoman who fought against the odds. Sujata finally understands andaccepts the dynamics of grief, ultimate loss and unbearable paincaused by the premature death of her younger son Broti. She firmlybelieves that her son Broti was not a criminal; he only refused toaccept „the code of decadent society.‟ She realizes that “death is the only15832

Gopal Chandra Paul- Historical Realism in Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084: AStudypunishment for those who lose faith in the system.” After Brati’sdeath her life is absolutely empty, with no one to live for any more.Key words: apolitical mother, noblest idea, Naxalite movement,betrayal, encounters, brutality, nexus, Criminal, ideology.Mother of 1084 is a political analysis in the 1970s West Bengal.Here Mahasweta Devi does not give any historical account ofthe Naxalite movement in West Bengal that broke out in thetribal region of Naxalbari, a remote and unknown region inNorthern West Bengal in May 1967 when a policeman SonamWagdi was killed by armed tribals. The police force inretaliation fired upon the villagers killing nine innocentvillagers including six women and two children. The regionalmovement grew and spread fast, drawing in a wide assortmentof elements, including a considerable section of urban youthsspecially students. Brati Chatterjee and his comrades were suchstudents who joined the Naxalite Movement. But withinadequate organizational control and sharp differences in theleadership over both ideological and strategic issues, mountingpersecution of the Govt. and above all the establishedmentLeft‟s use of state machinery, the movement collapsed in 19741or so.Since Naxalite Movement was a bone shakingcontemporary movement Mahasweta Devi, as a eye witness andwithout being indebted to anybody, made an attempt to recordthe events in her play Mother of 1084 . As an eye witness anda writer of the most important movement of post- independentWest Bengal she maintained two conditions- i) She liked to betrue to the historical Naxalite movement in the urbanbackground particularly in Calcutta, and ii) She maintainedthe demands of art. Instead of presenting loosely knit events ofthe Naxalite movement of the 1970s she focused her attentionon an exemplary integrity, selflessness and the guts of BratiChatterjee and his comrades who died for a cause. The case wasEUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 12 / March 201515833

Gopal Chandra Paul- Historical Realism in Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084: AStudysomewhat different .As she saw history in the making shedecided as a writer to document it as did Samaresh Bosu, agreat Bengali writer, in his short story “Saheder Maa” i.e. “Mother of Martyr.” As a writer she felt a commitment to hertimes, to mankind and to herself. In the Naxalite movement shesaw a further extension of the movements of the past, especiallythe “Tebhaga”, Kakdwip in West Bengal and “Telengana” inAndhra Pradesh uprisings. But from ath artistic point of viewshe set an apolitical mother‟s (Sujata, Brati Chatterjee‟s mother)quest to know her martyred naxaliste son Brati Chatterjee, toknow what he stod for. Death brings Brati Chatterjee closer toher through her quest. Again death brings Sujata , Nandini andSomu‟s mother closer ,whereas death of Brati Chatterjeealienates Sujata from her husband , her other living childrenand above all from her own so called elite society which alwaysbetrays common human values.Mahasweta Devi‟s Mother of 1084 is a story of a grievousmother Sujata, whose younger son Brati was brutally killed bythe state because of his ideology, and the corpse number-1084was kept in the morgue. The news of Brati‟s and his comrades‟encountered death ware reached to their addresses. Dabyanath,the father of Brati Chatterjee, the naxalist rebel, who had thenexus with Saroj Pal, the D.C.D.D., requested him to hush upthe identity of Brati Chatterjee in order to keep his socialprestige. Even he did not go to the police station to receive thedead body of her son. Mr. Dabyanath had succeeded in hismission. Next day all the newspapers reported the death of fourNaxalitres, but the name of Brati Chatterjee was not mentionedin any of the reports. But as a mother Sujata could not keepherself aloof from such grievous event, she to go to the policestation to identify and received the dead body of her son BratiChatterjee. But the irony is that her husband did not allow herto do so: rather she was wrongly treated by her husband: evenshe was not allowed to use their car to go to the police station.Sujat was shocked seeing such behavior of her husband. WhileEUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 12 / March 201515834

Gopal Chandra Paul- Historical Realism in Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084: AStudyshe was eager to identify herself with her son Brati the othermembers of her family comprehendingly try to alienatethemselves from Brati. Being the mother of a rebel Sujata wasnot allowed to receive the dead body of Brati. Being a mother ofa rebel she was denied the right of fixing up the date of heryoungest daughter Tuli‟s engagement even after the two yearsof Brati‟s death. The whole attitude of the members of herfamily and even the neighbors towards her consists of a feelingof doubt and disgusted mingled with a predominance of thefeeling of authority. She discovered that she was the mother ofBrati only, and she was an alien to her family. She had beenliving in the house just like a mother of a criminal. The conflictbetween Sujata and the members of her family was as if theconflict between the coercive mini state and the loving andbereaved mother. At the end of the play Sujata, as mother, hasgreat matured: society above all his own family taught her a lot.She had grown in stature mentally and morally: “Where‟s theplace where, there‟s no killer, no bullets, no prison, no vans.”(Act-xii)2 Her appendix may burst, but her voice, the voice of abereaved mother would suppress by the brutal voice of power.After Brati‟s death Sujata has been living in her ownhouse just like an outsider. But an awakening comes withNandini‟s presence. She realizes that she has always been anon-entity in the house and that she has been rendering behindobedience to convention and custom all these years. Because ofNandini it is now drawn upon her mind that the members ofher family are not those she had thought them to be. She has acloser affinity with Brati, the convict no.1084 only. She realizesthat the art of survival of her family is the systematic denial ofBrati and her defiance of the family. The portrayal of Nandinimeans an irremediable conflict between the woman and exitingbourgeois society. She is a strong and well-integrated youngwoman and has the instinctive ability to make the right choice.She is able to express herself fully although she is pushed toone side, declared incompetent and restricted by customs,EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 12 / March 201515835

Gopal Chandra Paul- Historical Realism in Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084: AStudyconventions and above all politics. She denies the coerciveauthority. She is the symbol of the noblest idea of womenhoodin the politically controversial world. She wisely explains andclarifies the issues of rebellion, power, betrayal and alsorevolutionary optimism: “All human loyalties had dissolved by1970. I wonder how we could be unaware that they could betrayus to kill us we heard that behind an assassination there wassomeone closely released to the victim- a father, a brother, arebalion, a friend or an acquaintance Arrests? Torture?Murder in the name of encounters? A whole generation betweensisteen and forty is being wiped out.” (Act.ix) 2Mahasweta Devi‟s Mother of 1084 is a story of Sujata‟smultiple oppressions within a stifling, familial, patriarchal andfeudal order. Turning his back upon this decadent and defunctcode, Brati decides to join the Naxalite movement sweepingthrough the state of West Bengal in late 1960s and early 1970s.His commitment to a particular ideology, wrong or right, hasmade him rebellious against the state. He has forgotten hisfamilial code. Unaware of his secret mission, Sujata is not evenable to dissuade her son from taking the plunge. DabyanathChatterjee accuses Sujata for misleading their son Brati, whichhas led him to become a naxalite rebel. The egoistic nature ofthe father is understood in his words: “Bad Company, badfriends, the mother‟s influence.” Mahasweta Devi herselfexplained: “Sujata in Mother of 1084, is essentially apolitical.Yet as she reaches towards an explanation of the death of herson (Brati), killing in the seventies (1970s) , she too finds theentire social system , cadaverous,, and as she takes a closer lookat the society, she finds no legitimacy for his death. ”Mahasweta Devi‟ begins with the exposure of the morality ofChatterjee family, takes Sujata out of its confines to let hermeet and interact with other like Nandini or Sumo”s mother;Mahasweta Devi‟ brings her back to the family at the end andthen lets her make a last desperate effort to accept its normsand adjust to it before she collapses. Her son, Brati‟s deathEUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 12 / March 201515836

Gopal Chandra Paul- Historical Realism in Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084: AStudybrings a revolutionary change in her thought and character. “Sujata is transformed into a morally assertive, politicallyenlightened and a socially defiant individual”10.The whole play centers around Sujata, the mother ofcorpse number -1084. Mahasweta Devi presents Sujata as asymbol of the noblest idea of motherhood. Sujata is neverpolitically ambitious as was Lady Macbeth who might sacrificeher own child for political purpose. She is not like Sophocles‟sAntigone, who defied the frowns of a monarch and upheld thebanner of justice. In point of personal bereavement Sujata hassome similarity with Maurya of J.M.Synge‟s “Riders to theSea.” Like Maurya, Sujata is not a mere private mother; she isa universal mother like Mrs. Meldon in St. John Ervine‟s OneAct-Play “Progress” , whose child becomes a victim. Like Eddie,Broti was an urban student. As Eddie had joined The SecondWorld War, Broti had joined the Naxaliste movement inCalcutta in the 1970s. Sujata can not forget the dastardlykilling of her son Broti because of an ultimate act of betrayal.She is earnest in finding a moral rationale for her son‟srebellion: “If Broti had been like Jyoti, or a drunkard likeNeepa‟s husband Amit, or a husband fraud like Tony, or hadrun after the typists like his father, he‟d have belonged to theircamp.” (Act- iii)2 Sujata is a woman on the wrong side of fifty.Being a patient of acute appendicitis and being a housewifewithout her own earning she is entirely dependent on herhusbandYet as a mother she maintains her motherliness in allsorts‟ of opposition. It is Sujata‟s affection for Brati which alonesustains her dreary existence. Broti‟s murder makes hercolourless, lightless and joyless. She never moves to a world offantasy nor does she preach sermons on political follies andvices as Mrs. Kapadia does: “The Swami says, there‟s no death.It‟s only the body that dies, the soul lives on.” (Act-xii)2Sujata never takes the task of lashing at contemporarypolitical events. She faces the Dabyanath- Saroj Pal nexus, thecorrupt power, authority in state, and authority in family. SheEUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 12 / March 201515837

Gopal Chandra Paul- Historical Realism in Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084: AStudylearns that Saroj Pal, the D.C.D.D., is the mastermind behindthe annihilation of Brati Chatterjee and his comrades. ForSujata, the black car and the threat of the state violence in thedefense of vested interests bear the political shock that drivesSujata to that final long-drawn out, heartrending poignant cry:“You can not be on the run longer Brati corpses, stiffenedcorpses, all of you!.Did Brati die so you could carry on in yourcadaverous existence Do the living die, only to leave theworld to the died to enjoy? No, Never! ” (Act-xii)2 .Sujata finallyunderstands and accepts the dynamics of grief, ultimate lossand unbearable pain caused by the premature death of heryounger son Broti. She firmly believes that her son Broti wasnota criminal; he only refused to accept „the code of decadentsociety.‟ She realizes that “death is the only punishment forthose who lose faith in the system.”(P.27)2 Now she herselfsays “now that Brati is dead. I, too, wouldn‟t like to go living.”After Brati‟s death her life is absolutely empty, with no one tolive for any more.Mahasweta Devi‟s Mother of 1084 is a social document ofthe Naxalite movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s WestBengal. Mahasweta Devi, in an interview in 1983, points to thismovement as the first major event that she felt “an urge and anobligation to document.”11 As an eye-witness she saw exemplaryintegrity, selflessness to fight or die for a cause. MahaswetaDevi in her story has tries to visualize the reality of 1970s WestBengal in an artistic way keeping the reality alive. Shehighlights the social impact of the movement and presents thereality in a humanitarian point of views. Here he puts thequestion marks on the role of society and the Governmentmachinery for the sprout of the Naxalite movement in 1970sWest Bengal. She also criticizes the way of controlling anddemolishing the underground movement. Both as a writer andas a social activist, Mahasweta Devi has always positionedherself neither fully within the domain of her „bhadralok,‟bourgeoisie background nor within the space of extremists. SheEUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 12 / March 201515838

Gopal Chandra Paul- Historical Realism in Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084: AStudyhas always tried to negotiate the troubling questions arisingfrom the clash and conflict between the familiar, civilizedsociety and the state. She criticizes the contemporary societywith its barbarian outlook and lack of popular sympathy for therebellions.Methodology:The work is mainly based on secondary source of information,such as published documents, books, autobiography, journal,etc. My methodology in this paper is partly structuralist andpartly post-structuralist, as I approach narratives first toconstruct and classify and then deconstruct them.REFERENCES:1. Devi, Mahasweta. Hazar Churashir Maa. Calcutta: KarunaPrakashani (1974).2. Devi, Mahasweta. Mother of 1084 (Ed). SamikBandhyopadhyay. Calcutta: Seagull Books Pvt. Ltd., 1998.3. Hajaar Churasir Maa (Hardcover Bengali) Flipkart.com.Retrived 18July20124. Bengali Books Online. Author Profile-Mehesweta Devi.Retrieved 17July20125. Hajaar Churasir Maa. Retrieved 17July20126. Roy, Pinaki. “Mother of 1084: A Chronicle of DeadlyTimes.”7. Roy, Pinaki. “Mother of 1084: Rereading the narrative ofprotest”. Layrinth(ISSN-0976-0814) , 4 (4) October2013.8. Sarker,J. & Debnath,S. Mahasweta Devi‟s Mother of1084:Critical Readings & Rereadings.Kolkata: BooksWay2013.9. Biography of Mahasweta Devi‟. Retrieved 17July2012EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 12 / March 201515839

Gopal Chandra Paul- Historical Realism in Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084: AStudy10. Mahasweta Devi‟s Mother of 1084: A Narrative of Healing.This paper was presented by Rana Nayar at a seminar onImages of Woman in Indian English Writing, held at GG.S.College, Ludhiana on November 19, 2004.11. Bandhyopadhyay, Samik. Five Plays. Calcutta: SeagullBooks Pvt. Ltd., 1986.12. Sharma, Dr. Ram. A History of Indian English drama.Baraut, Baghpet, UP.Acknowledgement:I covey my deep sense of gratitude to all the Teachers,P.G.Department of English & Research, Magadh University,Bodh-Gaya, India for suggesting the way I may find suitablefor the development of my paper, valuable guidance, &constant help & continuous encouragement in the preparationof this manuscript. I owe to them in every sense for theproviding me with the facilities throughout the course ofinvestigation. I am grateful to all my friends & classmates fortheir co-operation.EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. II, Issue 12 / March 201515840

Mahasweta Devi‟s Mother of 1084 is a story of Sujata‟s multiple oppressions within a stifling, familial, patriarchal and feudal order. Turning his back upon this decadent and defunct code, Brati decides to join the Naxalite movement sweeping through the state of West Bengal in late 1960s and early 1970s.

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