“Quest for Nesting” (Baah Bisaari Ejaak Sorai) by celebrated author and journalist, Hemanta Barman, came to the fore when the world needed it most. Indeed, if readers felt that Barman was penning a novella simply about House Sparrows (Passer Domesticus) and mundane environmental matters then they could not have been more mistaken. Although the growth of the plot might have been the need to inform the world about the Sixth (Mass) Extinction, Barman has succeeded in taking the narrative to a domain which speaks aloud about far more then nests and species extinction. The angst of anguish has been clearly expressed in the work.
Interpretation is interpretation. To that end, the manner in which a unique work—especially if it is fictionalised—is construed is the readers’ prerogative. Baah Bisaari Ejaak Sorai has the shape and nuance of such a genre. The style in which Barman has lent colossal yet petite voice to a tiny creature is superb food for thought.
Barman has been able to weave an appealing plot. He began by conjuring a hamlet—laced by a river—which unfolded a sky that took inimitable but indirect directions (Sah-Puhor, Ronga-Rongor Abhax…) and knits a hue that proclaimed even facets such a romance, albeit of a sort that society might deem to be taboo. But even in such complex configuration which embraced questions pertaining to widowhood and love there was clarity. Such is the contour that Barman’s lines were able to explore, ford and unite.
The way Barman structures his lines are extremely private. For a less sensitive reader a few may even seem less urbane—possessing a rural quest that has the writer’s innards in mind. Indeed, in the cover of affability and politesse, Barman’s lyrics take on disturbing hue. The sparrows’ quest for greener pastures took the road beyond Rongai’s mute monologues.
Hemanta Barman has not fought shy of revealing the frightening entrails to their concluding extremities. But as was sought to be explained by the author privacy is but a fleeting phenomenon. However undisclosed an feature that it may be expected to be, it will, one way or the other, find its way into the union that binds every being into a singularity. It is, therefore, important that even the most agonising of consciousness—however appalling an side it might be—be put to view.
But the real malaise lies in social inequality across society. After all, why is there so much frustration and anger—albeit yet not forcefully articulated—among the teeming millions of this country and elsewhere? Why are even the educated among India’s secular citizenry looking towards an alien discourse which is seeking an end-state that is fanatically puritanical? Close reading of history and analyses of the present inform that the answer is in class struggle and the manner in which man-on-man exploitation is leading people to question the way environmental and human degradation is taking place.
Hemanta Barman understanding of class and society, about the oppressing and the oppressed has elevated him to a pedestal from where he can view and compare even the “lowliest of creatures” with existence itself. The momentous aspect of the novella—perhaps lost by others who sought to review it (sitting by Red Herrings in far-off contemplation) is the manner it has been able to characterises the present and give shape to a future that needs to be mirrored in the present.
The service that Barman has rendered to the world by unravelling the story of the sparrows in public domain was, as aforesaid, very timely. This is notwithstanding the fact that Baah Bisaari Ejaak Sorai first appeared in 2014.
The manner in which extrapolation from the distress of house sparrows can be drawn to existence itself is superlative. Humankind, perhaps the only sapient being in terra firma that can express itself in assembled language, too, is in grave danger of losing their hearth. In fact the service that he has meted out to the world and society stems from the fact that such an exercise was undertaken more by way of a need to exorcise oneself of the agonising demons (or the house sparrows that he espied above his bed) that have been a source of anguish rather than to proclaim to the reader that the writer’s upright pennants have been bravely lifted.
Barman was always a cognoscenti. With the unfurling of Baah Bisaari Ejaak Sorai, he has touched a firmament that is mesmerising. The crimson tint with which he heralds the end is particularly endearing (Pubor Belitu Tetiya Titktikiya Ronga Hoise).