A Gujarat Here, A gujarat There by Krishna Sobti
Book – A Gujarat Here, A Gujarat There
Author – Krishna Sobti
Translator – Daisy Rockwell
Publisher – Penguin Hamish Hamilton (18 February 2019)
Pages – 272 pages, Hardcover
About the book:
Delhi, 1947. The city surges with Partition refugees. Eager to escape the welter of pain and confusion that surrounds her, young Krishna applies on a whim to a position at a preschool in the princely state of Sirohi, itself on the cusp of transitioning into the republic of India. She is greeted on arrival with condescension for her refugee status, and treated with sexist disdain by Zutshi Sahib, the man charged with hiring for the position. Undaunted, Krishna fights back.
But when an opportunity to become governess to the child maharaja Tej Singh Bahadur presents itself-and with it a chance to make Sirohi her new home once and for all-there is no telling how long this idyll will last.
This book was difficult to read, and even more difficult to review for me. Being said that, this book isn’t for beginners to read.
A Gujurat Here, A Gujarat There by Krishna Sobti (translated by Daisy Rockwell) is a part-fiction and a part memoir. I loved the title of this book. The title, alone, speaks volume of what this book is about – A Gujarat here in India, and another Gujarat across the boarder in Pakistan.
I absolutely enjoyed reading the first half of this book. It was lyrical, informative, very heart-breaking and gripping. I had tears in my eyes while reading the stories of people leaving their house only to counting living as a refugee on another land, and trying to survive the horrors of partition, political irony and humanity. As I progressed with the read, the lack of a significant storyline was a turn off. It was all in bits and pieces. Through it could be that the book is meant to be in read its bits and pieces, the ending of the book was at the very time not-so-satisfying.
Talking about the way Krishna Sobti writes, it is one of a kind! Exceptional, if I had to describe her written in one word. She has the power to bring down an entire paragraph in one word and it would mean and make you feel just the same.
I was really enjoy this novel but it seemed like it was lost in translation. Or atleast the second half of the book was. Though I did not thoroughly enjoy reading this book by Sobti (primarily because of the plotline), I would still look forward to read more books by her (only because of the way she writes). I hope the next book (which-so-ever) I read written by her stays with me not only for her way of writing but for the story-line as well.
May be borrow this book or find a second hand book or an e-copy. I would recommend this book but I won’t make this my priority reading amongst all those unread pile of books.
About the author and the translator:
Krishna Sobti is one of the most respected writers in the Hindi canon. She won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980 for her novel Zindaginama, and in 1996 was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, the highest award of the Akademi. In 2017, she received the Jnanpith Award for her contribution to Indian literature.
Daisy Rockwell is an artist, writer and translator living in northern New England, USA. Apart from her essays on literature and art, she has written Upendranath Ashk: A Critical Biography, The Little Book of Terror and the novel Taste. Her highly acclaimed translations include, among others, Upendranath Ashk’s Falling Walls and Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, published in Penguin Classics.