Book review | Batashe Baruder Gondho//There's Gunpowder in the Air by Manoranjan Byapari


Every time I finish a book based on the Naxalbari andolon I'm left breathless. Manoranjan Byapari's There's Gunpowder in the Air/Batashe Baruder Gondho was no less. Byapari weaves a tale that WILL leave you breathless.

This fictional story revolves around five Naxalites planning a jailbreak. The story starts off with the jailor Bireshwar Mukherjee going on a round in the jail premises. As he goes around, the author, very artfully, describes the jailhouse and the different wards, the prisoners they hold and their story. Soon we are introduced to the five Naxalites, who are imprisoned in a cell (a special part of the jail - a dark room where they are kept for months) - Parimal, Gautam, Bijoy, Nimai and Bablu. When the jailor doubts that these young Naxalites are upto no good, he plants a snitch amongst them. 

The author adds new characters and their backstories, as the story progresses, to create a beautiful premise that adds such heavy meaning to the book that you will definitely end up with a heartache. Byapari writes this book with his own experience. Being a Naxalite and a captive in a jail, he unfurls what goes on inside those jail walls - the hypocrisy of the judicial system, the social classism, the inhumane treatment, and the divisions that are created within the jail, by the inmates themselves, according to the crimes they have committed.

What I loved most about the book is that the book does not have a fixed protagonist. It can be said that all characters are equally important. Byapari shows us the unadulterated and unfulfilled dreams and hopes the people in the jail have - from the inmates to the sepoys. These characters' perspectives on the Naxalites and their ideologies makes it a phenomenal story.

I had so much fun reading this book in Bengali though. Byapari uses the colloquial Bengali tongue for the dialogues of some of the village-born characters. I could clearly imagine the scenes playing out. I loved the usage of Bengali verses and poetry by the Naxalites in the book. For some Bihari characters Byapari gave them the Hindi mixed with Bengali accent. It is truly remarkable how one book can illustrate multiple accents. I don't know how the English translation played out, but reading this book in Bengali was the right thing to do. 

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